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Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Mr. Hatef Mokhtar with the Ambassador of Bosnia – Herzegovina at the Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

Exclusive Interview with the Honorable Ambassador of Bosnia–Herzegovina to Norway, Mr Emir Poljo
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First of all, The Oslo Times (TOT) is honored and privileged to be able to have this session with you. We really appreciate you for managing time amidst your busy schedule for us and our readers worldwide, who would be reading this interview as we publish it on our website.

Our first question to you is:

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way from its tumultuous beginning after the dissolution of Yugoslavia followed by the bloody Bosnian War. Shedding its communist past, it started a journey on the path of democracy and set its sights on greater involvement with the international community adopting policies and agendas accordingly. How far do you think the country has been successful in acting within the democratic political framework? Going a little back, was this transition from communism to democracy in the best interest of the common people, and if so, how?

Ambassador: First I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak for this prestigious media. I would like to congratulate for your efforts to promote the universal values of freedom, peace and democracy, through your media. Now let me answer to your question.
Fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989 signaled the end of the ideology of single-mindedness at the world political scene and awakened the hope of many people who have been victims of political mindedness which we recognize as communism. It was a historical process of world-wide politics and my country did not, nor  it was able to influence the development of these events. My country was naturally affected by these changes. Freedom and democracy are awaited with enthusiasm among the people of my country. Bosnia and Herzegovina just like other countries, in these new circumstances demanded its place on political scene. Unfortunately, as is well known, Bosnia paid the highes price of change. Today, we can say that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina like majority of people in the world is enjoying fruits of freedom that they have voted for. Price was expensive and infinitely costly, but between slavery and freedom we have chosen freedom, and today we are proud of it. Peace, freedom and democratic values that is heritage of our society for 17 years now are the greatest benefit enjoyed by the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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TOT: What are the major challenges that politicians of Bosnia–Herzegovina had faced, and are still facing, in their bid to make the country more democratically vibrant and adopt pro-people policies befitting a sovereign nation?
Ambassador: Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country in transition. This process of transition undergone by many countries of the Eastern bloc in the case of my country takes place more slowly. The reason for this is that the consequences of the war brought with it many material as well as spiritual harm. Consistent implementation of the peace agreement (Dayton Peace Accord), dealing with the consequences of the war, the preservation of peace and reconciliation among the nations, the transition from the state and public property to private owned properties and the setup of a market economy are some of the most pressing challenges that leadership of my country is facing. In addition to all those elements mentioned above the biggest challenge is also how to overcome the consequences of the global economic crises that is affecting my country as well.
TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina is a potential candidate for the membership of the European Union and has been a candidate for NATO membership since April 2010. In your opinion, what are the major areas of development in which the country has made significant strides bolstering its confidence to apply for the memberships?
Ambassador: BiH is today recognized as a modern European country that is trying to meet as soon as possible all the necessary requirements for become a member of two respectable global alliances such as NATO and the EU. We are half way gone in achiving those goals. The same proces are undergoing the other states of Former Yugoslavija, and Croatia will this summer become a member of EU. In a case of my country the greatest success of all this effort lies in the fact that there is full political consensus of all the political actors regarding our way to EU and NATO. This is very important in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina having in mind its demographic structure of the population. Joining NATO and the EU are the main priorities of our foreign policy.

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TOT: How far do you think the country has been on the track after becoming a member-state of the Council of Europe in 2002 and consecutively the founding member of the Mediterranean Union in 2008?

Ambassador: Our membership in these organizations will confirm the commitment of my country to be equal and active member of the European Union and the Mediterranean Union, since geopolitically we belong to both. It will also confirm that we are ready to share the same European democratic values with the other member states of EU. Membership in the Mediterranean Union is part of our commitment to develop regional cooperation and thus contribute to improving the overall bilateral relations between the countries of the region.

TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has come a long way since its independence in 1992 and is now being looked at as one of the strategically important countries in the region, paving the way for forming and deepening strategic cooperation with various power blocs including NATO.
a.) After NATO’s recognition of Bosnia as a potential candidate for its membership, how does the country plan to carry forward relations with the western military alliance and what benefits can it achieve in the process?
b.) If Bosnia becomes a full-fledged NATO member, will it have any effect on the relations with Russia and other erstwhile countries of the Soviet bloc?

Ambassador: Well you’ve noticed it correctly. Bosnia is one of the strategically most important countries in the Western Balkans. As result of this we are putting all our efforts in our primer political interest and priority of the first category and that is peace. Peace is needed for every citizen of Bosnia, of the Western Balkans, of Europe and the World. Because of the known historical circumstances this part of the world deserves the establishment of such political relationships and alliances that will guarantee the long-term, stable and lasting peace. This is not only important for Bosnia but for the region as a whole. NATO is not only military but also political alliance because most of the countries of the European Union are also member states of the NATO alliance. Interests and goals are identical, and they are to provide a sustainable, long-lasting and stable peace. Given the fact that this region geopolitically belongs to Europe, it is understandable why we are moving towards European integration. In addition to all this, I have to be honest with you and to let you know that my country in order to achieve this goal needs support and help of international community. It is important to underline the fact that we want to build a partnership with NATO, because we believe that we can contribute to the peace in the world together with other member states. The fact that our troops are already participating in peacekeeping missions around the world, proves our willingness to contribute. Also, I’m quite sure that this will not affect our very good relations with Russia and other former Eastern bloc countries. We do not want to compromise our good relationship with East but to further develop good relationship with West as well as with East. In addition to all this, I wonder who would not want peace in Bosnia and in the Balkans, the peace that brings every kind of prosperity and well-being?!?

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TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has successfully resolved nearly all its territorial disputes with the neighboring countries, but there are still deep-seated ethnic tensions with Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia, particularly with Serbia, with whom its diplomatic relations are still sensitive.
a.) So what are the reservations that Bosnia–Herzegovina seeks for its ethnicities in these countries to dial down the tensions?
b.) How much progress has been made in establishing diplomatic relations with these countries which were once parts of a greater conglomeration called Yugoslavia?
Ambassador: Unfortunately, it is not possible to objectively answer this question in a few sentences. I would like to emphasize that the establishment of long-term stable and good bilateral relations with our neighboring countries, particularly Croatia and Serbia, is as important priority, as it is our effort to join the EU and NATO. Simply there is future without resolving all outstanding issues with Croatia and especially with Serbia. I think that there is no need to elaborate all this. These goals we are trying to achieve both bilaterally and multilaterally through various forms of regional cooperation. We have achieved a lot until today and we can be happy with that. For almost two decades we have resolved the issue of communication, where we have a free flow of people, goods and capital.  All this is a prerequisite for our good relations. We have also signed many bilateral agreements which resolved many fundamental political and economic issues of our bilateral relations. Every day these relations are getting better.
It’s hard to build a future when the past keeps reminding you. Our main difficulties are related to our recent and unfortunate past. There are still a lot of prejudices about what has happened, what is true and what is not. However, we try to rely on a single phrase which reads:” If we can not agree about our past, we have to agree about our future”.  To conclude all this, when it is up to our relations with Croatia and Serbia, my country always gives priority to political dialogue that contributes to peace and reconciliation between our people, based of equality among states. Having in mind all sacrifice that people in Bosnia and Herzegovina went through, and in particular the Bosniac nation in Bosnia, we are particularly sensitive when someone in any way is questioning our sacrifice. We will never allow anyone to question the price of peace and freedom that  our citizens have paid with their lives, and which we now enjoy in Bosnia.

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TOT: Bosnia–Herzegovina has growing bilateral relations with Norway. What are the areas of interests in which the country seeks cooperation from Norway?
Ambassador: Our bilateral relations with Norway, especially political relationship, are on a very high level. There are no outstanding issues between our two countries. In particular we are grateful for all support and effort that they are providing us with in order for us to join NATO as soon as possible. As an important member of NATO, Norway’s contribution is of particular importance for us.
The concrete support of Norway during the war reflected the great humanitarian assistance, and after war period Norway helped us in reconstruction of country’s infrastructure, and even today they are helping us in various forms of establishing democratic institutions and in reform of local government.
On the other hand, we must not forget 15 000 BiH citizens who are living in Norway today. They are all on daily bases through their work contributing to our friendly relationship with Norway, since they are loyal to Norway and they are obeying lows of this country. Today, both sides work hard to improve our economic relationship and there are many opportunities, especially in the field of tourism, energy sector, wood and metal industries.

TOT: After the collapse of Yugoslavia, Bosnia–Herzegovina suffered one of the bloodiest armed conflicts in the human history that saw thousands of innocent people killed and nearly a million displaced. With this background in perspective, how do you think the Bosnians see the developments taking place in Syria, Congo, Mali and Afghanistan where thousands of people are being killed and millions being displaced within their own homelands?

Ambassador: I wish that my country never had the experience that you mentioned. My country and its people understand very well the tragedy through which the people of those countries in a war that you are mentioning are going through. Unfortunately, the list of countries where are brutally violated basic human rights is much longer. We as individuals unfortunately can not do much but to sympathize with them. Of course, through our multilateral diplomatic activity we are trying to contribute to the establishment of peace in all the countries where it is needed. Today, small and weak states are not the key factor in establishing peace in the world. Throughout history and even today, it was always a privilege of the great powers. Today, as it was the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a lack of political will of those big powers to resolve these conflicts, where civilians are the one suffering the most. I will never understand people who do not learn from the past, especially the tragic past. Apparently they are forgetting the universal ethical rule that happiness of one can never be build on the misfortune of other. But it’s not the first time that politics and morality have little in common.

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TOT: Your country practices a unique system of presidential democracy in which each of the three ethnic communities gets an eight-month term to represent and govern the country.
a.) How far do you think this unique model of power-sharing has been successful in maintaining peace and harmony in the country?
b.) What are the other steps that the government of Bosnia has taken to improve the democratic ambience in the country and ensure further representation of the communities in policymaking?
Ambassador: I must remind you that the entire political, constitutional, legal, administrative and electoral system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is product of the Peace Agreement which was signed in November 1995. years in the U.S. military airport base the Right-Paterson at Dayton, Ohio and which is today known as the “Dayton Peace Agreement”. Since the day it was signed until today, during those 17 years it succeeded to establish and maintain peace in Bosnia. This was the biggest result but not the only one. We have built democratic institutions to guarantee respect for fundamental human rights and democratic values in the country. We have to admit that Bosnia has unique constitution in the world. Today, many people in the country and also in the international community believe that this agreement gave its maximum, and that it now in some ways prevents faster integration of country into the global political and economic trends. The biggest problem with Dayton Agreement is huge bureaucratic apparatus that could not be handled by many even more developed countries in the world. Besides being a big burden on the economic development of the country, it also makes states institutions dysfunctional.  We are currently looking for solutions to this situation. Having in mind the sensitivity of the problem, in order to solve this, it will be necessary to provide full political consensus of all parties signatory to the Dayton Peace Agreement.
TOT: The country is divided into two entities including the Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the former enjoying a near sovereign structural framework of governance and diplomacy.
a.) What are the areas where the national government plans for more integration of the two entities?
b.) And does the presence of this unmanned/unarmed boundary line called IEBL (Inter-Entity Boundary Line) has still any relevance or importance in the lives of general people of the country?
Ambassador: For the integration of the two entities the state government (Council of Ministers ) is in charge. Council of Ministers is consisting of nine ministries, out of which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Security, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice are the most important. Of course, in addition to all this we also have cooperation on lower level of power, between the entity governments, that are correct and very successful. Boarder between the two entities has no effect on the life of the common man and it only has the administrative importance. These relationship between entities confirms that there is a will to build a better future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, state of two entities and one District, state of three constituent people, Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
TOT: a.) The European Union is going through its worst economic downturn at the moment. How far has the crisis, which affected almost all major regional economies, affected Bosnia–Herzegovina which has the aspiration to become a part of the economic bloc?
b.) What are the challenges being faced by the country at the moment?
c.) How does Bosnia–Herzegovina see the future of the EU, with the downturn casting a shadow of doubt on its very practicability? Why does the country still wish to be a part of it in spite of the odds?
Ambassador: Undoubtedly the poor economic conditions in the euro area had a strong negative impact on the economic development of countries in the region therefore in Bosnia as well. The biggest challenges that today the governments of the Western Balkans are facing is the economic crisis. It reflects the slower overall economic growth, in increasing poverty and unemployment rates, it reduced foreign investments and of course it affected the repayment of the total external debt that grows each year. My Government at the moment is taking all necessary measures in order to some extent alleviated the consequences of this economic crisis. Those measures are mainly reflected in the reduction of costs in the public sector, the regular payment of taxes, public works through the opening of foreign direct investment and the creation of a better business environment for the creation of small and medium-sized enterprises.
Regardless of all deficiency, we see no alternative to the EU Integrations. Although the European Union is facing a lot of problems, we continue to believe that the value offered by the European model is far greater than the disadvantages that this community is facing nowadays, and we strongly believe that EU will overcome all those problems.

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TOT: The freedom of press has over the years become the major focus of many international organizations and some of them have raised their concerns about the situation in the Balkan countries as well. How will you rate the condition of press freedom in Bosnia–Herzegovina?

Ambassador: When it comes to freedom of the press and media in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we can be proud that the establishment of a multi political party system brought freedom of media to high level. However it is different question whether these media or press is independent and whether they are professional in your work? It is a question that applies to each country. I believe that the countries that are extremely burdened by the economic crisis are also facing an unprofessional and dependent media. Given that the “media” also have to live out of something, meaning that they need some kind of income, often in times of crisis they must comply with certain political or economic lobbies, and therefore they work against the basic principles and codes of free journalism. In this circumstances they are even more contributing to crises. Reports of these media are generally accompanied by personal rather than general interests of society. Unfortunately, in my country the situation is not much better. But I am convinced that the online media revolution will change this attitude and encourage positive competition. Your example is the best proof of it, where with few resources one can defend universal values of journalism and create trust among readers. Once again I congratulate you on that.
TOT: Bosnia is a country created and divided on ethnic lines and is currently being run from two capitals by two distinct ethnic governments. Add to these the recently formed multiethnic, decentralized enclave of Brčko District.
Do you think that the two capital cities of Sarajevo and Banja Luka with the recent addition of the third one, with varying types and degrees of representation, are any hindrance in the way of development and policy reformation of the country?
Ambassador: Allow me to correct you here. Bosnia and Herzegovina is an internationally recognized and sovereign state and as such there is only one capital city, and that is Sarajevo. Therefore there is no single reason for the rivalry between Sarajevo and Banja Luka, and Brcko frame embedded in the Dayton Peace Agreement. However, within the country we have two ongoing  interconnected parallel processes of integration. One occurs in the internal (local) level, which is reflected in the cooperation of state and entity institutions that establish coordination mechanisms for negotiations with European partners and the other for the Euro-Atlantic integration, which are reflected in the fulfillment of all the conditions that result from these negotiations. This process, although it is sometimes slow, unstoppable is going toward his goal.

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TOT: The human rights situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been a constant concern for the international community and major regional groupings and progressive alliances. Can you please enlighten us on the existing HR situations in your country? And also, what steps did the government take to improve the condition of human rights and ensure individual freedom for all the citizens?
Ambassador: When we want to talk about this important issue, we must always bear in mind the historical facts of the recent past that faced my country. The problem with this part of the world was, and still is, a problem of democracy. In the last hundred years the Balkans had no luck with democracy, or should we say that democracy had no luck with Balkans. Just a little more than two decades ago people in Bosnia and Herzegovina have experienced the roughest way of violations of human rights. In the past war in Bosnia human life worth very little. Tragedy struck wide areas of the former Yugoslavia, and Bosnia was the epicenter of this earthquake. The massive violations of human rights occurred in Bosnia. Even so, today I want to point out that Bosnia and Herzegovina as a signatory to all international and European conventions and declarations, that interpret the human rights principle reaffirms its strong commitment to obey the rule of law in regard of Human rights, not only in theory but also in practice. So far we have built almost all the democratic institutions that deal with the issue of human rights. In addition, one of the basic conditions for the integration of Bosnia into European and international associations is meeting all standards, which include respect for human rights. We have only one verdict made by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to implement. Once we do this we will automatically become a candidate for the European Union. It is the matter of date when will this issue be resolved. In a country that has a unique legal and political system, which is in the process of transition, burdened at the same time by wartime past as it was in Bosnia, highly affected by the economic crisis it is hard to expect that the human rights would be at  high level. Human rights are of universal significance, and as such can and should be the subject of constant public criticism. The state of human rights in my country is not at the level where we would like it to be, but it is not behind the neighboring countries in the region eather. All the basic human rights are guaranteed by our constitution. In particular we are very satisfied when it comes to respect for basic political and economic rights and freedom of media. Unfortunately, I think that economic crisis, poverty and high unemployment rate in Bosnia are the main reason that the social rights are not at the level where it should be. There is still a large room for the improvement of each of these rights, and it is a daily task of law enforcement officials in BiH.
TOT: The Republika Srpska practices a “regulatory guillotine” which means that it takes only a few days to register a business there, whereas in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina it often takes several months to do so.
Why this difference when both entities are being run in the light of a common policy framework?

Ambassador: One of the main prerequisites for a quick economic recovery is a common and unified economic space within BiH. The differences that you’ve noticed must be deleted. This is all the result of the current situation in the country, and  not the orientation of the policies implemented by the Council of Ministers.

TOT: What is the message you would like to give to the global readership of The Oslo Times as a reprehensive of your country?
My country today is more and more attractive for tourists from all over the world and therefore I would like to call upon your readers to visit my country and to get first hand experience about Bosnia. Bosnia is particularly rich with historical and cultural heritage; it has a beautiful nature and friendly people well known for their hospitality. When we talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina, it means that we are talking about two worlds – the East and the West. It is a country that for centuries is located at the crossroad of civilizations. Many say that Sarajevo is European Jerusalem in miniature. In the old part of city of Sarajevo,  in a small area, just within 200 meters for five centuries stands old temples of four well known monotheistic religions: the Mosque, the Cathedral, an Orthodox church and a Synagogue. Today there are more and more of those who see Bosnia and Herzegovina as a modern democratic state, that is marching towards a better European future, and putting its recent tragic past behind. Welcome to Bosnia and Herzegovina!
Thank you for sharing your views with ‘The Oslo Times’. We wish you and your country all the best in the days to come!

The Oslo Times – All Rights Reserved.

The undisguised extremism promoted by Golden Dawn is a chilling watershed in Greece’s post-war democracy. Fascist gangs are turning Athens into a city of shifting front lines, seizing on crimes and local protests to promote their own movement, by claiming to be the defenders of recession-ravaged Greece.

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‘The People’s Association – Golden Dawn,’ usually known simply as ‘Golden Dawn,’ is a right-wing extremist political organization in Greece. It is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos and has grown considerably since its inception to a widely known Greek political party with nationwide support.

 

Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party is gaining popularity in the midst of the country’s deepening financial crisis. The group has been implicated in torture cases, and for inciting a wave of racial violence sweeping the country.

 

An opinion poll published by KAPA Research in October showed that support for the extremist political group had grown from 7.5 percent of the population in June to 10.4 percent currently.

 

The Golden Dawn emerged from political obscurity into the mainstream in May after winning 7 percent of the vote in the Greek parliamentary elections. Since then, the country has reportedly witnessed an upsurge in racial violence connected to the right-wing group.

 

The party entered the international spotlight after some of its members reportedly participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of Bosnian Muslims. Its publication praises the Third Reich and often features photographs of Hitler and other Nazis.

 

Golden Dawn has manipulated a weak Greek state and disastrous austerity management by European bureaucrats to become, according to recent polls, the third most popular political party in the country — a noxious omen for the euro zone and a worrying challenge and counterpoint to the very idea of the E.U. itself, which received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

 

Three years ago, Greeks ignored Golden Dawn, seeing its members as neo-Nazi thugs waging war against migrants and giving it a miserable 0.29% of the vote. Last year, however, Golden Dawn — rebranded as an anti-austerity party — won nearly 7% and secured 18 of the 300 seats in Parliament. Its ascent has continued in opinion surveys despite its parliamentary deputies’ being filmed attacking immigrant vendors and demanding that all non-Greek children be kicked out of day-care centres and hospitals.

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As the cash-strapped government struggles to offer its citizens basic services, Golden Dawn has set up parastate organizations to police the streets, donate to Greek-only blood banks and help unemployed Greeks find jobs.

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The party has also promised to cancel household debt for the unemployed and low-wage earners. “Soon we’ll be running this country,” says Ilias Panagiotaros, a beefy 38-year-old army-supply-shop owner who is now a Golden Dawn parliamentary deputy representing Athens.

 

Public Love from Fear

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“The people love us.” says Ilias Panagiotaros. Golden Dawn draws much of that love from fear. Greece is now the main entry point for at least 80% of the EU’s un-documented migrants. Frontex, the EU border-patrolling agency, estimates that 57,000 illegal immigrants slipped into Greece last year and more than 100,000 entered in 2010. Many travel through Turkey, often via a land border that Golden Dawn wants to plant with land mines. Some seek asylum, and because of EU rules, those who want to apply for refugee status must do so in their country of entry — in this case, Greece — which often takes years to review the applications. As Europe turns a blind eye to the immigration crisis, many impoverished foreigners find themselves trapped in an economically crippled country that can’t sustain them.

 

Some Greeks no longer want to be hospitable. In the past year, gangs of vigilantes, many sporting Golden Dawn’s black shirts, have beaten and stabbed hundreds of migrants, according to human-rights groups.

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In June 2012, a number of them broke into the Piraeus home of Abouzeid Mubarak, 28, an Egyptian fisherman, bashing him with iron rods until he fell into a coma. “It was a hate that was inhuman,” says Mubarak, who is still recovering.

 

Ali Rahimi, a 27-year-old Afghan asylum seeker, was hanging around with friends outside his building in central Athens when more than a dozen Greeks approached. Several men set upon Mr. Rahimi, one with a knife. Panicked, he fled into his apartment and fought back, managing to push the men out the door. He found blood gushing from just above his heart, one of five stab wounds in his back and chest.

 

Mr. Rahimi survived and is staying put for now. But his friend, Reza Mohammed, who was also injured in the attack, is considering what was once unthinkable: moving back to Afghanistan, which he feels would be safer than Greece. 

 

Parts of Athens feel like a war zone. Racist gangs cruise the streets at night in search of victims. Themis Skordeli, a member of the group that is accused of stabbing Mr. Rahimi, ran unsuccessfully for Parliament on the ticket of Golden Dawn.

 

A few blocks down the street, a crowd was leaving a mosque after Friday Prayer. At the mention of Golden Dawn, immigrant men began lifting their shirts to show their scars. A short, sullen-looking young man with a cut across his nose and freshly sutured cheek bone was pushed forward by the crowd. Just the night before, he said, he was beaten and cut with a knife by “fascists.”

 

“Go into the Omonia police station,” said another man. “You will see how violence is going on.” Several blocks away, I walked into just such a scene. As I stepped out of the elevator at the police station, I saw an officer screaming at a black man and backhanding him hard across the shoulder.

 

In Athens, Sayd Jafari owns a cafe frequented by fellow Afghans. It has been repeatedly ransacked by mobs of black-clad attackers wielding sticks, chains and knives and performing fascist salutes.

 

Like others who have been assaulted, Mr. Jafari is also contemplating returning home to Afghanistan. “There, maybe someone has a bomb hidden on his body that he detonates,” he says. “Here, you don’t see where the knife that kills you comes from.”

 

It’s now common to see police lineup immigrants from South Asia and Africa in public squares and along streets in central Athens. Those without legal-residency permits are arrested and sent to detention centres to be deported.

 

Police claim they have detained nearly 42,000 people since August, though only about 3,400 were arrested for not having residency papers. They defended the crackdown, which was strongly denounced by human-rights groups, by comparing undocumented migrants to the Dorian invaders who purportedly brought down the Mycenaeans in 1100 B.C.

 

The most recent example of fascism shown by Golden Dawn in its series of discriminating activities is when it said a visit to Greece by American Jewish Committee leader David Harris is meant to ensure further “Jewish influence over Greek political issues” and safeguard the interests of “international loan sharks.”

 

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), is leading a Jewish delegation to the region to meet with several Greek leaders, including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. During the meetings, Harris expressed his “concern and solidarity for Greece during the crisis.”

 

“The only solidarity of this gentleman is to his compatriots – the international loan sharks, who are humiliating the Greek people. His concern most likely is related to the inability of Greece to make the payments of the predatory interest rates of the vile loans,” Golden Dawn said in a statement, adding: “We do not need the crocodile tears of a Jew.”

 

Its leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, uses the Heil Hitler salute and has denied the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps during World War II. Another lawmaker read a passage from the anti-Semitic hoax “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”

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The attack on Harris and a separate article titled “Absolute Evil” that was published on the party’s website Friday appeared to be a hardening of Golden Dawn’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, apparently in anger over pressure from Jewish groups to get the Greek government to reign in the party. The “Evil” statement said that blaming Golden Dawn for Greece’s woes constituted an attempt to divert attention from the real culprits for Greece’s financial crisis.

 

“They are none other than those who possess most of the international wealth. The people behind the international loan-sharks,” the statement said. “Everyone knows they belong to a certain race, which presents itself as a victim, while in reality it is the perpetrator. Everyone knows that they are none other than those pulling the strings behind the marionettes. They are the absolute evil for mankind.”

 

The second statement ended with a threat.

 

“The time will come when the nationalists of the Golden Dawn will take revenge like the horsemen of the storm, and all of them, being the absolute evil, will pay!”

 

Not content to proselytizing in their homeland, Golden Dawn has started to expand worldwide.

 

Barely a month after their electoral victories, Golden Dawn launched a widely-criticized branch in Melbourne, Australia, home to one of the largest Greek populations outside of Athens. In October, several groups protested the opening of a Golden Dawn office in New York City, which had opened for the explicit purpose of building support for the party among Greek expatriate communities and collecting food and medicine to distribute in Greece – only for Greeks. And in Montreal, Golden Dawn is holding a Christmas food drive. The catch? They’re only giving food out to Greek Christians.

 

Golden Dawn members in the United States have told CBC News they plan to open chapters shortly in Chicago, in Connecticut and in Toronto.

 

What’s at stake is the health of European democracy, and the values and institutions on which it rests. But while the euro crisis touched off a scramble to halt a financial meltdown, European leaders have done virtually nothing to reverse the union’s dangerous political trends.

 

As recent polls show that its strength continues to grow, and its support runs as high as 50 percent among police officers, who routinely fail to investigate growing numbers of hate crimes.

 

Far-right ultranationalist groups are exploiting old enmities and new fears across the Continent. Although this is not the Europe of the 1930s, the disillusioned citizens of countries like Greece and Hungary have turned increasingly to simple answers, electing parties that blame familiar scapegoats — Jews, Gypsies, gays and foreigners — for their ills.

 

Maria Chandraki, 29, an unemployed beautician, hadn’t heard of Golden Dawn until the last election. “Their positions may be extreme,” she said, holding plastic bags of food she’d just received. “But the situation is extreme as well. So we need extreme measures.” She went on, “We can’t have so many nations and so many different sets of values and ideals under the same roof.”

 

Beneath the looming basilica of Athens’ largest church, middle-aged men and women in black Golden Dawn T-shirts were busy one bright September morning distributing food to needy Greeks. Kids ran across the courtyard, which was painted with the party’s unofficial platform: “Get foreigners out of Greece.” Clusters of fit, stoic young men in dark glasses ringed the perimeter.

 

Nikolaos Michos, a square-jawed Golden Dawn Member of Parliament with the build and tattoos of a heavyweight boxer, leaned against a bloodmobile watching. He wore a black polo embossed with the party’s Swastika-like logo. “We’re fighters and we’re not going to back down,” he said, referring to death threats from leftists and the burning of a Golden Dawn office. “But they’re not striking fear into us because every centre they destroy, we’ll build new ones,” he added.

 

European leaders must not cede the battleground in the war of ideas. They should publicly denounce parties that espouse racist doctrines and spew hate-filled rhetoric and clearly define and defend the shared values of an increasingly integrated Europe.

 

To do so, they must develop a pan-European approach to monitor hate crimes and investigate right-wing extremist networks that operate across borders. And the European Union must ensure that all member-states, old and new, respect the same criteria that countries currently aspiring to join the European Union are required to meet, especially maintaining the “stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights, respect for and protection of minorities.” Otherwise, Europe faces the spectre of more xenophobic violence and the unravelling of the liberal democratic order that has drawn so many persecuted people to seek asylum and opportunity on European shores.

 

Nikos Katapodis, 69, can see the crossroads where his family has lived since 1863. A bald, chain-smoking funeral-home owner, Mr. Katapodis describes the Greek government with a string of expletives. The flood of immigrants over the last decade created ghettos in central Athens, he explains. Crime rates rose, property values dropped and bars appeared on second-floor windows. “It looks like a prison,” he said, nodding to the street. “Today it reminds me of the late 1940s,” he adds. “You see people scrounging for food in the trash cans.”

 

Although he didn’t vote for Golden Dawn, he sees it as “the only party that is actually doing things for the Greek people” — a cross between the welfare state and the Mafia. If he needed an escort to walk down the street or help paying for his cancer medicine, he’d call Golden Dawn. “They’re doing what the politicians should be doing,” he said. “There’s a hole, and they fill it.”

 

Authoritarian elements in the Greek government have a history of using far-right groups to outsource political violence against critics. Recent moves to rein in Golden Dawn came only after it grew too powerful to control and the state felt its own authority was challenged, explained Anastassia Tsoukala, a legal scholar. “They were bitten by their own snake,” she said. And Greece is not alone. Golden Dawn’s rise has parallels across Europe, and its significance should be of Continental concern.

Dear President Kim Jong-Un

Supreme Leader of North Korea

We write this letter to you to raise a number of points that would demonstrate the depth of international concern about your country. In so doing, our wish is to help you improve your country’s image, strengthen your leadership and help the people of North Korea.

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2013 can be a time of opportunity for you to open a door that has long been shut without regard to the shifts in the world around. You can start off by reworking some policies and practices perpetuated since your father’s time—for the wellbeing of your own people.

More than 200,000 men, women and children are still being held in prisons and gulag camps in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). Most of them have been incarcerated for political reasons and are not guilty of any internationally recognised crimes. Prisoners have to endure conditions that resemble the worst forms of human rights abuse and many die of starvation.

The human rights of the people of North Korea are routinely violated, despite its ratification of numerous international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

People are living in constant fear and insecurity, knowing if they do not follow the government-scripted codes of conduct it could result in the loss of their freedom, basic human rights, and their lives. They are subject to enforced disappearance, “unfree labour”, torture and execution.

The DPRK government stands guilty of crimes against humanity and flagrant violations of international laws. It is accused of arresting people on false premises and giving harsh penalties for small offences.

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Millions of North Koreans are suffering from hunger, malnutrition and inadequate health care. According to our understanding, the DPRK government has the capacity and resources to offer a minimum level of care to people but apparently it is neglecting it.

Let’s face it. People’s fundamental rights to freedom of expression and opinion and freedom of religion are not acknowledged in your country. Access to and sharing of information is restricted. The voices of dissent are ruthlessly suppressed. Whatever we know and hear about North Korea—considered to be the most tightly closed-off region in the world—come through the filter of a state-controlled media.

Food Shortages and Famines

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In March 2011, a joint UN survey estimated that over six million people in North Korea urgently required international food assistance to avoid famine. The World Food Programme called it the worst famine in a decade. Several NGOs and media outlets reported hunger-related deaths.

Some of the causes of the famine are harsh winters, destruction of harvests through floods, economic mismanagement, and the government’s discriminating food policies that favour the military, government officials, and other loyal groups.

Since 1995 the United States has provided North Korea with over $1 billion in help, about 60 percent of which was given as food aid and 40 percent for energy, according to a Congressional Research Service report in 2008. The aid was suspended halfway through due to a lack of transparency in aid distribution and the escalating tensions caused by the North’s nuclear missile tests and restrictions on international monitors.

More recently, reports surfaced about a ‘hidden famine’ in the farming provinces of North and South Hwanghae, killing up to 10,000 people so far. People were so desperate to ward off starvation that incidents of cannibalism rose dramatically. Yes, it is hard to believe in this modern age but ‘numerous testimonies’ have confirmed the shocking findings.

The international community is always willing to provide assistance to a people in need. But it is ironic that when you ask for food aid, the first question that comes to their mind is: will it be really delivered to the people for whom it is given, or it will be manoeuvred like before? They fear the fund might be used for military purposes.

Torture and Abuse of Human Rights

Individuals arrested on criminal charges often face torture by officials aiming to enforce obedience and extract bribes and information. Common forms of torture include sleep deprivation, beatings with iron rods or sticks, kicking and slapping, and enforced sitting or standing for hours. Prisoners are subject to pigeon torture, in which they are forced to cross their arms behind their back, are handcuffed and hung in the air tied to a pole, and finally beaten with a club causing loss of circulation or limb-atrophy that often leads to death within weeks.

Guards sometimes rape female detainees. One study done in 2010 found that 60 percent of refugee respondents who had been incarcerated saw a death due to beating or torture. Incidents of cannibalism were also reported in some prison camps as a result of confiscation of meat rations by prison officials.

Executions

North Korea’s Criminal Code stipulates that death penalty could be applied only for a small set of crimes, but these include vaguely defined offences such as “crimes against the state” and “crimes against the people” that could be and are applied broadly. What is concerning is that your government exercises inhuman methods of torture and execution.

In 2001, a condemned inmate had got his body torn apart by guard dogs as executioners fired. Three bullets shattered his skull, splattering blood near other prisoners who were forced to watch.

According to statements of some defectors, forced abortions have also become a common practice, and if babies are born, many of them are killed, sometimes before their mothers’ eyes.

Forced Labour Camps

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Testimonies from escapees have established that persons accused of political offences are usually sent to forced labour camps, known as “gwalliso”, operated by the National Security Agency.

The Kwan-li-so are gulags or concentration camps that, as of 2003, unlawfully detained about 200,000 North Koreans in a total of six to eight camps in remote valleys guarded by high mountains, in the country’s northern provinces. The Kwan-li-so violates international laws on multiple grounds and are generally charged with various crimes against humanity such as forced internment, forced labour, torture, rape, forced abortion, starvation, and death without charge or trial.

It is unfortunate that your government still practices collective punishment, sending people to forced labour camps to work under a “guilt-by-association” system (yeon-jwa-je), where not only the offender but also his or her relatives such as parents, spouse, children, and even grandchildren have to work. Some defected guards have said that they were taught to treat prisoners as national traitors who must suffer condemnation up to three generations of their families.

These camps are notorious for their inhumane living conditions and gross human rights violations, including severe food shortages, little or no medical care, lack of proper housing and clothes, mistreatment and torture by guards, and executions.

Forced labour at the gwalliso often involves strenuous manual labour such as mining, logging, and agricultural work, all done with rudimentary tools in dangerous and harsh conditions. Death rates in these camps are reportedly extremely high.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers

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Your government has criminalised leaving the country without state permission and those who leave face harsh punishment if caught, including interrogation, torture, and other penalties. Those suspected of religious or political activities, including contact with South Koreans, are given lengthier terms in horrendous detention facilities or forced labour camps with chronic food and medicine shortages, harsh working conditions, and mistreatment by guards.

Hundreds of thousands of North Koreans have fled since the 1990s, and some have settled in China’s Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. Beijing categorically labels North Koreans in China “illegal” economic migrants and routinely repatriates them.

A number of North Korean women and girls have been trafficked into marriage or prostitution in China. Many children of such unrecognised marriages have been forced to live without a legal identity or access to elementary education, because their parents fear that if they register they would be identified by Chinese authorities and forcibly sent back home.

Government-Controlled Judiciary

Your country’s judiciary system is not independent as all staff including judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court clerks and jury members are appointed and controlled by the Supreme People’s Assembly. The judges remain highly vulnerable to threats from the government which can subject them to “criminal liability” for handing down “unjust judgments.” The penal code, with definitions of offences and penalties often ambiguous and open to interpretation, is not also consistent with the principles of modern criminal law.

Anything done in opposition to the regime is treated as political crimes, leading to strict punishment and subjugation. When a person is arrested for political crimes, suspects are not even sent through a nominal judicial process; after interrogation they are either executed or sent to a forced labour camp, often with their entire families.

Your government uses fear by threats of forced labour and public executions to prevent dissent, and imposes harsh restrictions on freedom of information, association, assembly, and travel.

Your government periodically investigates the “political background” of the citizens to review their level of allegiance to the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WRK), and forces those who fail such assessments to leave the capital.

Military-First Policy

A strong leadership for a battered economy like yours is essential. But you seem to have chosen your father’s military-first policy instead of a peaceful and diplomatic process. Your actions stand in direct contrast to your pronounced resolve to rebuild your country’s moribund economic condition.

This was proven once again on Saturday (26 January) when you decided to take the path of “retaliation” in response to an American-led United Nations sanction on North Korea. You have reportedly ordered your party officials to take “substantial and high-profile state measures” to conduct a third nuclear test to show your ability to “target” the U.S. But the sanction, which was also a response to your government’s December 12 rocket launching, was not uncalled-for. Carrying out such expensive and destructive experiments is not the way to boost an impoverished economy.

Last words

Dear President Kim Jong-Un, have you ever paused for a moment and considered how you really want to be remembered by your people? As a dictator? Or a people’s leader? Perhaps you should. How you are remembered would be determined by how you act as a statesman.

The fact is, your treatment of your people resembles the way some former dictators used to treat their people, sending them to camps or execute them. Hitler organised the execution of the Holocaust, the systematic extermination of six million Jews and millions of other non-Aryans. Josef Stalin deliberately orchestrated the famine that claimed between 7 and 11 million lives in Ukraine and in parts of the Soviet Union. Pol Pot, through his hegemonic agrarian socialism, caused the deaths of approximately 26 percent of the total Cambodian population.

These dictators died a very disgraceful death. Not to mention, their people hated them for what they did and associated them with all that is evil and heinous. We urge you to take lesson from their fates and end all violations of human rights in your country.

We urge you to abandon the decades-long systematic pattern of human rights abuses committed by Pyongyang against its people and sincerely hope that you will create your own legacy. You can restore the North Koreans’ trust in their rulers and gain their respect by upholding their human rights.

If you want to be remembered as the man who stood against the current and abandoned a brutal legacy, it is the time. Your people need democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of religion. We are in the 21st century and there is no room for dictatorship at the expense of precious lives and basic rights.

Your late father, Kim Jong-II, isolated your people from the modern world, so much so that those few North Koreans who managed to escape had to spend several months in special care schools to adjust themselves to the ways of the 21st century.

Whom are you trying to punish? The western world doesn’t suffer from this, only your people do. Last year’s rocket launch failure cost your government $850 million, enough to feed millions who are starving to death.

Women suffer the most in a famine situation; every 40 of 1000 women had died in the previous famines. They also suffer due to the gendered structure of North Korean society. Women face problems like anaemia, premature birth and haemorrhage because of vitamin deficiency.

Children also face high mortality rates. The main reason behind the deaths of infants under two is the lack of breastfeeding. A child may die because of various reasons such as prenatal, neonatal and postnatal complications. A child may die even long after it was born owing to reasons of malnutrition, infections and so on. So, a high-impact prevention policy is necessary to redress the mortality problems.

Another thing that you should look into is the violation of individual’s right to privacy. Every home in your country is forced to set up a portrait of the “Great Leader” Kim II Sung and the “Dear Leader” Kim Jong II. Inspectors come on a surprise visit and hand out fines if the portraits are not well-kept. Every adult citizen must also wear a button of Kim II Sung!

It is quite ironic that since its establishment, the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea could never justify the purpose of its official name. When a country’s name says it is democratic, it has a moral obligation to be so. Its leadership should work towards uplifting the democratic values and allow people to apply their choices to elect or change their own representatives. If North Korea is a democratic state, it is indeed the worst kind of it in the entire history of democracy. There can be no justification for Mao Tse-Tung—styled “people’s democratic dictatorship,” which is only an extended version of dictatorship sustaining repression and regimentation.

A democracy should serve its people’s interests and work for their prosperity by empowering them with the power of their rights and freedom to choose their path of livelihood. The citizens of North Korea under your leadership are far from getting any such privileges. Over the years their lives have been made miserable and their rights deliberately denied.

We, on behalf of your people who have no means to express themselves, would like to pose a few questions which may provide some food for your thought:

Q.1. Being a young leader of this country, what are the ways you seek to bring the lives of the people at par with the lives of those on the other side of the DMZ?

Q.2. Do you and your regime still think you have the consent and mandate from common people to continue your job?

Q.3. In this world of globalisation, is this right to keep North Korea isolated and its people more like distant aliens away from the advancements of civilisation?

Q.4. Is it not your duty to respect the rights of your people who have obeyed your family’s leadership for decades, albeit with little improvement in their living conditions?

Q.5. In what context does your leadership thinks that North Korea could be a role model for peace and humanity for the world?

Q.6. Are nuclear weapons more important than your people’s prosperity? Should they remain hungry and half-fed to fuel your baseless ambitions?

Q.7. Does North Korea’s age-old socialistic framework, which has no acceptance and practicability in this age of democracy, still holds the future for its people?

Mr. President, before you answer these questions, you must first think that even those whom your regime has followed as leadership models were washed over by the tides of time and their system had to be remodelled to suit the needs of a changing world.

You should analyse your position in light of that. The direction in which you and regime have being heading has outlived its relevance. You must change your direction now and democracy is all you have at the moment. You are standing at a crossroads in history and a bold decision can seal your place permanently in the heart of your people. Even with a functional democracy you can continue your lineage and continue to serve your people.

Our humble wish is that you would be able to rise to the occasion and do what must be done today or tomorrow.

On behalf of ‘The Oslo Times’

Yours Sincerely,

Hatef Mokhtar

Editor in Chief

Oslo, Norway

Oslo – This is to inform to our readers that today a meeting was to conduct an exclusive interview at the embassy of Hungary with the honorable Ambassador Mr. Géza Jeszenszky.

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The interview was held successfully under the supervision of our editor in chief Mr. Hatef Mokhtar who had gone and conducted this exclusive interview session with the honorable Ambassador. It was a 40 minutes session of questions and answers.

Various issues and concerns were raised during this interview that range from simple economics to the concerning issues like of human rights and democratic transition.

The best part and most vocal message which The Oslo Times got from Mr. Jeszenszky was that he has been an open critique of Communism which he defines it as a long date of the world politics.

The interview session has clearly put across the most vital and strategic point across on the position of Hungary towards global politics, economic crises in Europe, situation of democracy / human rights / media in the erstwhile Communist states that are now progressing towards a major shift to democratic framework in particular Hungary which is experiencing the great leap forward towards the integration with the rest of Europe and the world at large.

In a few days of time The Oslo Times would be going to publish this exclusive interview and wish its readers would find something extra that rest of the media misses out these days.

Stay connected to The Oslo Times for more news updates.

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It is the time of the year when we reflect over the past and hope for the best in the days and months to come. We carry with us the lessons we learned and the memories we hold dear. As we enter the New Year, we are perfectly aware of the realities of our world—a world that poses formidable challenges yet leaves ample room for new rays of hope to come in.

 

No doubt 2013 will also have its fair share of prospects and challenges. But each challenge will make us stronger and further united in what we do and what we believe in.

In the past year, there have been a lot of challenges, difficulties and tremendous losses. From The Oslo Times, we did our best to update our readers on all important developments. We worked hard to promote human rights and freedom of speech—the two issues fundamental to our movement.
 

There are still a large number of media workers, bloggers and human rights activists behind bars, imprisoned unlawfully for raising their voices for the right causes. People living under corrupt and oppressive regimes are still afraid to speak up and stand for their fundamental rights.

 

They are afraid of consequences if they protest against repression, discrimination and violations of their freedom of expression. All these challenges may very likely be with us in 2013 as well.

 

I would like to thank all our readers and contributors for their support in 2012, and hope that they would continue their support for us. I would also like to thank those who inspired and enriched us with their insightful feedback and lighted our ways with their visions.

With our readership continuing to grow, we could not be more enthusiastic about 2013 and what we can accomplish together with your feedback and continued support.

As the first dawn of the New Year is about to break very soon, let us take a pause and think. Have we come all the way up here, after all the struggles and sacrifices for a just world, only to lapse into silence at this stage?

 

If we cannot join the protests on the streets, let us do what any thinking person can do: share news of HR violations and use our pens to unmask the violators. As Winston Churchill once wrote: “You see these dictators on their pedestals, surrounded by the bayonets of their soldiers and the truncheons of their police…yet, in their hearts, there is unspoken fear. They are afraid of words and thoughts: words spoken abroad, thoughts stirring at home – all the more powerful because forbidden – terrify them. A little mouse of thought appears in the room, and even the mightiest potentates are thrown into panic.”
 

HAPPY NEW YEAR

 

Hatef Mokhtar

Editor in Chief

The Oslo Times

 

 

 

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In the image above: (L) Asst; Chief Rabbi of Kazakhstan’s Jews community with (R) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar in an exclusive interview session in Almaty.

Almaty, Kazakhstan, December 12 2012 - The honorable Mr Rabbi Bezalel Lifshitz met with the editor in chief hatef mokhtar for an exclusive interview that will be published in a couple of weeks. They spoke about religious freedom, Judaism and the Jewish community in Almaty KZ.
There are approximately 12,000 to 30,000Jews in Kazakhstan, less than 0.2% of the population.

Most Kazakh Jews are Ashkenazi and speak Russian.There are synagogues and large Jewish communities in Almaty where there are 10,000 Jews. According to the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, “Anti-Semitism is not prevalent in Kazakhstan and rare incidents are reported in the press,” contrary to incorrect perceptions in popular culture caused by the country’s portrayal in the 2006 film Borat as a “hot-bed of anti-Semitism.

Rabbi mentioned the 7 commandments for humanity.

In ancient times, these 7 commandments were called “The Noachide Laws.”   They were preached by Noah which all people of the new world were required to follow. (Hebrew)

1 – Do not murder (Shefichat damim).
2 – Do not steal or kidnap (Gezel).
3 – Do not worship false gods (Avodah zarah).
4 – Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery) (Gilui arayot).
5 – Do not utter GOD’s name in vain, curse GOD, or pursue the occult(Birkat Hashem).
6 – Set up righteous and honest courts, and apply fair justice in judging offenders, and uphold the principles of the last five (Dinim).
7 – Do not eat the limb of an animal before it is killed (Ever Min HaChai).

 

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

SERGEY

In the image above: (R) UN Representative Mr. Sergey Karpov, the national coordintor of UN in Almaty Kazakhstan in an exclusive interview session with (L) Editor in Chief of The Oslo Times Hatef Mokhtar.

Almaty, Kazakhstan – December 11 2012 – Today at the centrally heated and guarded complex of UN in Kazakhstan a historic meeting has taken place between The Oslo Times Editor in Chief and UN Representative to the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The meeting was scheduled in the city of Almaty, the cultural capital of the country. In the meeting various issues and progress related to the role of UN and operations of the organization in Kazakhstan were discussed.

The distinction of this meeting comes when the cooperation between the UN and Kazakhstan were discussed related to human rights, press freedom and democratic status of the region’s republics.

The interview with the honorable representative would be scheduled for publishing on The Oslo Times within a span of few days.

It would be a very rewarding experience as the insider for our readers who are eager to learn and to have a knowledge of the republic’s stand and position in the region.

The Oslo Times is committed to its readers and will continously bring the exclusives like these to clear the misconcetions and undermine propaganda spread by the rise in yellow journalism around the world.

Rest for information it is advised to check our interview section at regular intervals for further happenings and updates through our exclusives.

TOT News Agency / The Oslo Times

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