Coalition Participates at Mass Protest Demonstration Against Slovak State Language Law in Dunaszerdahely

On September 1, 2009 two board members of the Hungarian American Coalition (Coalition) Mrs. Edith K Lauer and Zsolt Szekeres, attended the “Mass protest” under the slogan, “We stand up for our rights,” at the DAC stadium in Dunaszerdahely (Dunajská Streda), Slovakia.

An estimated 12,000 people – some Slovaks, but mostly Hungarians from Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Austria, Canada and the United States – participated in the peaceful demonstration organized by the Hungarian Coalition Party (MKP) and several civic organizations, to protest the recently passed Slovak Language Law which came into force that very day. The organizers invited Coalition Chair Emeritus, Edith Lauer, to speak about Coalition efforts to inform U.S. decision-makers about the restrictive and discriminative aspects of the Language Law.

The passing of the Slovak Language Law on June 30, 2009, caused a great outcry among Hungarian communities worldwide. The anti-minority law mandates the use of the Slovak language and limits the use of minority languages to the areas where the statutory provisions explicitly allow it.

The four hour-long event featured many speakers as well as well cultural programs.

In his welcoming remarks, Dunaszerdahely Mayor, Peter Pazmany, was the first of many who stressed, that “this demonstration is not directed against others; it is to stand up for our rights.” Csemadok President, Bela Hrubik, continued: “Our message to all Slovaks: do not be fearful about the rights of Hungarians; instead, fear those who are robbing us of our future!” Laszlo Pek, the President of the Hungarian Teachers’ Association in Slovakia, declared that Slovakia was the homeland of Hungarians, too, and quoted Hungarian writer, Elek Benedek: “The language of your country you must learn; your mother-tongue you must not forget!” Ondrej Dostal of the Conservative Institute, the only Slovak speaker at the event declared: “It is not only Hungarians, but honest and reasonable Slovaks who are troubled by this (Slovak Language) law. The time has come for Slovak politicians to stop taking the position that Hungarians are our enemies. It is the moral responsibility of democratic Slovak politicians to create an atmosphere in which Hungarians in Slovakia can feel at home. They should feel, this is their country, that they are this country’s citizens with equal rights.”

His remarks were greeted by loud cheers and applause by the crowd. Rozalia Biro, the Deputy Mayor of Nagyvarad (Oradea) brought a delegation of 50 Hungarians from Romania to express their solidarity with Hungarians in Slovakia.

“Even from far away, we, Hungarian Americans, follow the difficulties and challenges of the historic Hungarian community in Slovakia with sincere interest and great concern” said Edith Lauer in her speech. She contined, “By passing the Slovak Language Law, Slovakia violates the standards of free speech, the right to privacy, and basic standards of equality and tolerance, and a number of international obligations as a member of the European Community. As Hungarian Americans, it is our responsibility to inform US decision-makers––the State Department, the National Security Council, and members of Congress––about the discriminative and punitive aspects of the Slovak Language Law, and its possible consequences.”

The video clip of the Mrs. Lauer’s speech can be seen at:

In a rousing speech – with messages in Hungarian, Slovak and English – Hungarian Coalition President, Pal Csaky, expressed deep disappointment, that even now, 20 years after 1989, Hungarians in Slovakia are forced to fight for justice and equality in their homeland. “We have been dependable partners for democracy in Slovakia,” he said, “…we are law-abiding citizens of the Slovak Republic, which does not mean, that even for a moment we will accept those out-moded nationalistic efforts that are meant to relegate us into second-class citizenship.”

Afterwards, the participants of the event accepted en masse a Closing Statement that expressed their refusal to accept the sanctions of the Slovak Language Law that called upon the Slovak authorities to stop using hate-speech against the Hungarian community, and demanded that laws affecting Hungarians be created only after meaningful consultations with the minority community.

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