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'Racism on the rise' - singer

  • 2008-04-15
  • In cooperation with BNS
VILNIUS - Racist attacks are becoming an increasingly acuteproblem in Lithuania, says popular singer Berneen after being assaulted by racist thugs in Vilnius last week.

In the words of the singer of Indian origin, the growing number of racistand xenophobic attacks has prompted her to bring up the last week'sincident.

"I am not speaking about this for myself, for my career or publicity. Iam telling this because this is a serious problem," Berneen told a newsconference on Monday.

In her words, a group of young people including one female attacked herwith fists and a belt, and called her a "nigger" as she was taking a walk with afriend on Wednesday night. Berneen said the attackers were gone by the timepolice arrived.

After the incident, Berneen went to hospital and was diagnosed with headand hand bruises, however, initially refused to make a statement to thepolice.

"I did not want this to go public, I did not want the press to find out,"said the singer who comes from the Republic of South Africa.

Berneen also said she would suspend her musical career in Lithuania butwould not leave the country.

The singer, who sings in Lithuania, gained popularity after various TVprojects.

"You cannot escape such people because they exist everywhere. I workedhard for nine months and I do not plan to run from somebody calling me a"nigger." This was the first attack of such type in my life. I haveforgotten things like this. I know this happens in all parts of the world -not only in Lithuania, but also London, South Africa, America. But it istotally different when it happens in a small country like this," she added.

Lina Jankauskiene of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) confirmed that the number of racist attacks and other acts of discrimination are on the rise in Lithuania.

"We would like to express great concern with the growing discriminationwith respect to all minorities on the basis of race, sexual preference,gender or age. Looking at the future, we can make a well-groundedpresumption that the number of people coming to Lithuania will increase,including the number of people of different colors of skin," the officialtold the same news conference.

The number of cases of instigation of ethnic hatred has been growing forthe past few years. According to data provided by the police, 17 pre-trialinvestigations were launched over such public incidents or online statementsin 2006 and 32 in 2007. Some 21 probes have already been started this year.

Defenders of Lithuanians' attitude to other races point out the rise in the number of investigations and prosecutions shows that racism is no longer accepted by society at large.