[Röszke11 – Hungary] Interview with an activist of the Röszke11 solidarity campaign

[There are two media players because there are two files. One is the complete interview and the other is a question we added in the end of the interview. As soon as we have the technical equipment we will combine the two.]

Interview with an activist from the FreeTheRöszke11-solidarity campaign in Hungary.

We want to do an interview with an activist from the FreeTheRöszke11-Solidarity Campaign in Hungary. And we are the Can’t Evict Solidarity Campaign, we’re doing financial support and public work on repression and trials throughout the Balkanroute.

Q – So maybe you can tell me something about the trial of Ahmed that is taking place right now in Szeged – so what are the Roeszke11-trials about and who is Ahmed?

A – The trial is about eleven people who were arrested in 2015 September after a protest which happened at Roeszke-Horgos-bordercrossing. It is the border of Hungary and Serbia. It was the time when the fence [between the Hungarian and Serbian border] was finished and they closed the border and thousands of people get stuck on the other side of the border and they started to protest. On the second day of the protest there was a clash with the police, where there was stones thrown from one side and the police was using teargas and water cannons and after this the situation came down. They tricked the people and they entered to, they took away the cordon [barricade] from in front of the gate of the fence and people entered to Hungary. They were very happy, celebrating, saying “Thank you Hungary!” and they thought that they are allowed to pass now. But counterterrorist police forces attacked them and beat them up and arrested eleven people. At the place they arrested 10 people, they had their trials already. They get between twelve and fourteen months of prison and expulsion from Hungary. They singled out one person, Ahmed H., and they charged him with terrorism and also, like the others, illegal bordercrossing during mass riot. And he was catched a few years, eh, few days later at a train station.

Q – You also visited the trials against Ahmed in Szeged – what did you experience there?

A – It’s already the second time that they are having the first level court trial, so the trials are going on more than two years ago. And the first level court was much more harsh than now, like they were really treating him as a terrorist. He was in chains and handcuffs and there was a lot of security and police all over and around. They were blocking the road to the courtroom and now it changed a bit. Also the judge seems more fair than the one before. The one who he had before, she was very much connected to the FIDESZ government, to the government of the country there was a lot of connection also. After she gave him ten years of prison, she was elected and she get – how do you say this – she get some promotions after.

And now it seems different, the trials, but still it is one person charged with terrorism for being part of a protest and they just use him to justify the government propaganda. So it’s crazy and it’s a show trial, especially in the beginning the first court was going on, it was only the police who could testify. They were making fake translations of the people who were on the trial and now also, they can only use the evidences which was used before, so there are no new evidences brought up, even though there were many volunteers, media that time on the border who could testify with other opinion, who could show video materials but it’s not allowed to be shown. So it’s continuing more or less the same way how it was before.

Q – So, how is the trial and Ahmed H. treated by the Hungarian government and the media?

A – The Hungarian government made up a lot of platforms, for example the wikipedia-page called “The Battle of Roeszke” where they are showing that this aggressive people want to break into Hungary and attacking the Hungarian police. Also a few days ago they made a new facebook page, where the title is “Ahmed H. is a terrorist” and it’s made by the government and they own a very very big part of the media in Hungary now, it’s a monopol in the hand of the government and everywhere they just put that he is a terrorist, so the propaganda is very strong against him.

Q – How is the public perception of Ahmeds case in Hungary?

A – Mostly people only know “Ah, this is the guy who threw stones to the police.” That’s all the information they have and also because there is no other media where they can read other things about it. They only hear the propaganda version, so they believe it.

Q – You also visited Ahmed in prison. How is his situation, how would you describe it?

A – Me, I didn’t visit. They didn’t allow to any Hungarian yet to visit him in the prison. After more than two years in December finally some people could visit him from Austria and they rejected all the applications of Hungarians who wanted to visit him. But from what he says, (…) he don’t have any connection to other people. If he goes out, which is allowed for him one hour per week to go to the yard and he fought a lot for this, to have this right, to be able to go out from his cell one hour per week but when he goes out everyone else has to be locked away or if he wants to buy something from the shop everyone has to be locked, so he is totally alone. Before he couldn’t even have any visitors and he is saying he has strong pain in his back because of the conditions.

He is missing his family a lot a lot, he is suffering a lot from that. But otherwise he says that since the second level court deleted the decision of the first level court which found him guilty of terrorism and gave him ten years – but the second level court said that they didn’t deal well with the evidences, so it has to be restarted. So since this decision was made he says the workers of the prison treat him much better. Like it seems they also believe now that he is not guilty and they don’t treat him as a terrorist anymore. And he is sharing a cell with one other person who also speaks Arabic, so it’s kind of – now it’s better than before.

Q – So, how would you describe the general situation for migrants and refugees in Hungary and how did the public perception concerning migration changed in the last few years since 2015?

A – Now in Hungary everyone is locked in detention centers in transit zones/transit camps made of containers at the Serbian-Hungarian border. There are two transit camps there.

It is around 500 people there, families, children – everyone in Hungary. Everyone who is above 14 years old, they consider them as adults, like for the refugees. And they treat them as criminals, like all asylum seekers are treated like criminals. They are surrounded by barbed wire, fences, there is police there, there is the army there and conditions are very bad. They have very bad food, unnutritious, even if they want to go the doctor they bring them in handcuffs. There are cameras everywhere, random police checks in the middle of the night and they are just staying there for many many months and waiting for the decision of their application, which is usually negative because they say that Serbia is a safe country and then they just send them back to Serbia. And that’s how is the situation now for asylum seekers.

Q – And how would you say that the Hungarian people see refugees, migrants, migration?

A – In 2015 it was a lot of people, thousands of people who went to show their solidarity, who wanted to help to people, giving food, giving clothes, helping whatever they can and it changed, this people are very quiet now. I think it is also because of the propaganda, that from everywhere you can hear that this people are dangerous, they will rape our women and children and they are criminals/terrorists, so on and so on. And they just heard it so many times that some of them might have believed it. And also if you try to do something for this people then you have to face repression from the government and there are not so many things to do, because the people are locked away, it is not possible to go in the transit zone, it is – the media is not allowed to go, people are not allowed to go. It is not possible to even get close to the fences. They just send people away, everyone who tries to get any connection with this people. It changed a lot now, so it is big silence.

Q – So, how is the situation concerning repression, criminalization of migrants and other activists and protest in Hungary?

A – Migrants are generally criminalized, there are this case for example against the Roeszke11 where there were trials against them and how they treat them in the transit zone and if there is some trial it is like if you are a migrant it’s.. they look at you like you as a criminal from the start.

And there is also big repression against solidarity structures or NGOs who work with refugees. For example the security policy expert was saying in television that everyone who is helping migrants they are traitors of the country, they are war criminals, they are human traffickers and they should be without any court case just killed and it was in television and also politicians from FIDESZ are saying things in media and we can feel this. After Ahmed got the ten years sentence we made a protest and after that we had to go to court ourselves, we were facing trials, also now this time when Ahmed was having the trials we were contributing [distributing] leaflets and giving leaflets on the streets and very fast a lot of policecars arrived and borderhunters and undercover police with guns and there were searches against us and they treat you as a criminal if you show your solidarity in any way.

Q – So, in general how is it for activists or refugee support structures to work in Hungary?

A – Very hard, also now there is a very strong propaganda when they say that all people who try to work with refugees they are paid by Soros, Gyoergy Soros. There is this theory of the government that Gyoergy Soros wants to bring every year, I don’t know, one million people from Africa to Europe to change whole Europe and it’s his evil plan. And everyone who works with refugees is paid by him and they are evil foreign forces, everyone who is trying to work with refugees.

Q – Like a conspiracy theory somehow?

A – Yes, but most of the groups they were giving humanitarian help, to involve with politics, they are scared to do it.

Q – What are you as the FreeTheRöszke11-solidarity-campaign are doing and who are you and how can people support you?

A – Well, we are there in trials, monitoring the trials, also making campaign, trying to reach the people of Hungary to tell them what’s going on, to tell them another point of view than the governments fake propaganda. Also in other countries in Europe, in the European parliament we could reach some people to talk about it, to put pressure or at least try to stop the pressure of the government or the court. Also with legal support we are trying to help, we were collecting donations for the cost of the lawyers, visiting Ahmed in the jail, and what is needed, what the people tell us from the Roszke11-people, what they need we try to help with everything.

And what we need, of course donations to be able to continue and Ahmed is very very happy if he can get some letters and feels some support, it gives him lot of strength to continue and also if people organize solidarity events, it’s very helpful, even connected with some cases from their community or their country, to put things together. Because very similar things are happening in all over Europe. It is not something that only happens in Hungary, so to connect and to make solidarity events and to be in solidarity with each other. And maybe writing letters to Hungarian embassy, it can also be possible.

Q – Thank you very much!

A – Thank you, too!

Write letters to Ahmed:
Verein zur Förderung feministischer Projekte
Kleeblattgasse 7
1010 Vienna

Donations for the FreeTheRoeszke11-campaign:
Receiver: Rote Hilfe e.V. Ortsgruppe Frankfurt
IBAN: DE24 4306 0967 4007 2383 90
Subject: Röszke 11

More information: