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Dispute over the Sirály cultural club

March 26th, 2013

A left-wing daily accuses the Mayor of Budapest of closing down a cultural club in order to silence anti-government protesters. A pro-government commentator believes that the Jewish cultural organization running the Sirály cultural club without paying rent used its resources to orchestrate anti-government protest.

On Thursday, the City Council of Budapest ordered the Marom Club Association to vacate the premises of the Sirály cultural center within 16 hours. Marom, a Jewish cultural organization has been running the 6,500 square feet centre for the past year without signing a contract with Budapest City Council or paying rent. The Council has claimed that the tenants sell alcohol without a license. On Friday, security guards commissioned by the Council broke the locks on the doors of the club and asked the tenants to leave the building. The founder of Marom said he could not empty the place at such short notice and activists then occupied two floors of the building. The Marom and left-wing news outlets also hinted that the events had an anti-Semitic tone, as the Jewish cultural organization were targeted just before Passover. The Alliance of Hungarian Jewish Faith Communities (Mazsihisz) asked Mayor István Tarlós to suspend the vacation notice until Passover, so that already scheduled Jewish cultural events can take place in Sirály. Mr Tarlós agreed and announced that the tenants can stay in the building for another week but must leave right after the religious holidays.

Népszabadság in a front page editorial contends that the Fidesz majority Council wants to take a petty revenge on the Sirály club. According to the left-wing daily, the student associations organizing the occupation of the Fidesz headquarters earlier in March (see BudaPost March 11) used the place as an unofficial headquarters. Népszabadság also finds it hard to believe that Mr. Tarlós seemed not to be aware of the upcoming religious holidays before receiving Mazsihisz’s letter.

In Magyar Nemzet, Matild Torkos writes that the Marom Club Association is financed by US foundations. The pro-government columnist says she welcomes the idea of cultivating the Jewish cultural identity and heritage, but suspects that Marom has other designs than organizing cultural and religious events. Torkos speculates that Marom uses its resources to train anti-government activists and stage anti-government protests.

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