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A case for the European Human Rights industry?

Posted by Helen Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Huns are back and they are no longer at the gates. No sirreeee, they are right inside the EU fortress. Well, some of them are.

It seems that the Hungarian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee (an interesting concept) has rejected a petition by 2,500 people to be considered an ethnic minority, to wit, descendants of Attila the Hun.

Recalling stories of the Huns’ behaviour back in the 4th and 5th century when they were last in evidence and, specifically, Attila’s behaviour, 2,500 descendants are a little on the low side. When you look carefully around you in Hungary, various Asiatic features are still clearly in evidence in people’s faces. Whether that is the Magyars, the Huns, the Tatars or the later Ottomans that left traces is impossible to tell.

Attila has never been regarded in Hungary with quite as much revulsion as the rest of Europe. The name is enormously popular and the greatest Hungarian poet of the twentieth century was Attila József.

The historic Attila is the secondary hero of one of the best known children’s adventure novels by Géza Gárdonyi, “Slave of the Huns”. (His other even better known novel is “Stars of Eger” about the Ottoman conquest of Hungary.)

One of the favourite April 1 jokes among school children used to be the one about a newspaper article that they had found Attila’s tomb. Attila was supposed to be buried in three coffins somewhere in the river Tisza and the stream was supposed to have been dammed for the funeral, to be undammed afterwards.

The slaves who buried him were instantly shot, as were those who shot them and those who shot the shooters. I think there may have been a third rank of shot slaves. In other words, nobody knew where precisely the burial was. And that is that.

Apart from these exciting stories all that is known about the Huns is described by a Byzantine delegation that visited Attila. They themselves were not much given to introspection.

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the nineteenth century decided that the Hungarians were not descendants of the Huns and the present group maintains that the decision was unscientific.

It also maintains that thirteen other groups in the country have had minority status conferred on them with all the privileges that entails, so why not the Huns. Why not, indeed? I am looking forward to the discussions before the ECHR and, if the Constitution is passed, the ECJ, as they will be deciding on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Will the Avars and Khazars make their appearance soon? I do hope so.