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Xenophobia In Switzerland Strikes Pregnant Immigrant (?!)
by Alexandra Pereira
2009-02-19 09:36:23
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It is when I have to report crimes/soap operas like the one I am about to describe that I feel truly ashamed and disgusted for being... a human. The photo attached shows the belly of Paula Ventura Oliveira, a 26 year-old Brazilian female lawyer brutally attacked and beaten by a group of skinheads in the Stettbach train station, Zurich, Switzerland, during this last week. The xenophobic crime not only provoked the abortion by Paula, who was pregnant of twin 11-weeks old baby girls from her Swiss companion MT and was kicked multiple times in her belly, as it left on her stomach's skin the horrifying inscription of the initials of the Centre Democratic Union, a nationalistic right Swiss party.

Yet, while the Brazilian media, the Brazilian Lawyers' Order, representatives of Human Rights groups, friends and acquaintances of Paula, Brazilian deputies and the Brazilian public opinion all expressed profound shock, repulsion, indignation and demanded for justice to act immediately and accordingly, the Swiss police was deeply reserved about the whole case (to the point of questioning Paula's version), while the Swiss newspapers and television stations diligently try to cover it up. It looks like silence is the best friend of xenophobic criminals in Switzerland.

In this case, silence is the best friend of the three barbarian skinhead men (and all those in Switzerland and Europe who share their beliefs) who attacked Paula, kicking the Brazilian lawyer from Pernambuco and cutting her skin with a knife in a Zurich train station that Monday night, the 9th of February. Short after the incident she rised from the floor where she was beaten up and cut, went to the toilet of that same train station and aborted her babies. How coward can a crime be. I say doubly coward, and it seems that I am not alone in my statement.

"We are doubly shocked. As if the barbarity suffered by Paula was not enough, now they want to distort the facts, bringing up suspicions that Paula self-inflicted the cuts and was not pregnant. There is an unacceptable attempt to distort the factual evidences and force Paula, the victim, to prove that she was attacked" said José Soares, a long-time friend and former colleague of Paula in Recife Law School. "Behind all this there is a political context of xenophobia and aversion to foreigners" Ariosto Cunha added. The Legislative Assembly of Recife and several other entities, professors and friends of Paula organized a demonstration on the 16th of February, in front of the Torture Nevermore monument in Recife, to demand for justice by the Swiss authorities and express their solidarity with her.

The President of the Brazilian Lawyers Order, Jaime Asfora, declared that "The Swiss police version is very weird" and defended that the investigation should be supervised by an exempt and neutral international authority, a process which will be set in motion. "What we want is a fast and rigorous end for this case, so that it will not be forgotten and there will be no distortions of the facts". The lawyer Marco Peixoto stated: "It starts to sound like a piece of fiction: that same morning, we had received a radiant e-mail from Paula, telling us that the twins were girls. She was fine, very happy, it is absolute nonsense to think that Paula would cut herself so that she could blame a political party!".

And between all this I think to myself: What if Paula didn't even happen to be a lawyer, what would we know? Would she even be defended?

The attack to Paula happened just the day after Sunday's (the 8th of February) decision by the Swiss electors to keep valid the agreements with the European Union for the free circulation of workers. This referendum was held after a proposal made by the Centre Democratic Union and two other nationalistic right Swiss parties, considered by several analysts to defend xenophobic ideologies. At the same time, the Brazilian authorities consider that there are strong evidences indicating the xenophobic nature of the crime.

Paula, an employee for the Danish company Moller-Maersk in Zurich, left the Zurich University Hospital only last night (the 17th of February), and then she got to know about the version by the Swiss authorities, which considers the possibility of Paula having faked the pregnancy and wounded herself - "she had a shock with the reality when she knew about the police statements", her father declared. The parents and companion of Paula stated that she has medical exams proving the pregnancy - anyhow, she will be heard by the Swiss police once again. Also this week, a Brazilian magazine came up with a version according to which Paula would have faked the pregnancy and Googled the ultrasound images of her twins, but there are no further indications concerning the credibility of these reports. The fiction goes as far as to report that Paula has lupus and the disease, which affects the imunologic system, can cause hallucinations in extreme cases.

The lawyer was heading home in Dubendorf (6 km away from central Zurich) from work that Monday night, and she reported that when she got out of the train at the Stettbach station three skinhead men approached her: according to her description, they were dressed in black, had their heads shaved, and one of them had a swastika tattoo on his head. She said that they took her to a place near, beat her up, kicked her, took some of her clothes off and cut her, then ran away. She said she aborted and called her companion from the public toilet facilities, who took her to the Zurich University Hospital. Paula Oliveira reported the crime to the Swiss authorities as well. The Brazilian Consulate in Zurich supports Paula's description of the crime. Several News Agencies and Brazilian journalists' blogs report that the Brazilian Consul Victoria Cleaver was initially not treated  appropriately by the Swiss police - she was advised to talk to the victim if she wanted any informations about the case. Paula herself heard from one of the Swiss investigators the persuasive threat: "if you are lying, you will go to jail!".

Photos by: Agência Estado and Keystone
Other Sources: SwissInfo

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Emanuel Paparella2009-02-19 14:14:15

The above link from the on-line "The Guardian's World News" with an article by Helen Pidd and Tom Phillips on the incident, carries a slightly different complementary version of the incident, without however neglecting the strange and paradoxical phenomenon of xenophobia which continues to plague a Europe without borders and allegedly beyond nationalism and racism. Indeed, some truhs are incovenient.

AP2009-02-19 16:17:34
I wonder why hasn't the international community made more pressure over Switzerland's (and Austria's or France's, by the way) governments to turn extremist right parties illegal anyway? That would send a clear message that such behaviors cannot be tolerated.
I mean, it wouldn't be hard - but it would be decent - to add a small paragraph to the Constitution stating that "Armed associations, military, militaristic or paramilitary, are not authorized, nor are xenophobic organizations, or the ones which adopt fascist ideology”...

AP2009-02-19 16:33:15
If the official policies tolerate such ideologies, why shouldn't they feel free to do anything they want? "If our xenophobic thoughts are legal and democratic, why shouldn't their practical consequences be?" - they seem to think. Ideologies of hate, intolerance and xenophobia cannot be tolerated nor accepted as "democratic", because they are FAR from that. Of course, it's a matter of education as well, but if you leave the Pit Bull's free to bark among the crowd, you know they'll probably bite.

AP2009-02-19 17:11:21
errata - "will organize a demonstration" should be "organized a demonstration" (4th paragraph)

AP2009-02-19 17:30:53
Mr. Paparella: if you read Swiss newspapers you'll have an even MORE complementary version of the incident!

AP2009-02-19 18:02:55
Actually, the doubts about the incident rise, and no one knows the truth anymore as the speculation is high. Now a Swiss newspaper writes that Paula Oliveira confessed it was all a scheme to get an indemnization.

Jerry Sanders2009-02-19 23:48:45
I am amazed that Alexandra Pereira publishes this article on February 19th. I would have understood her anger a week ago, but now this issue is way too murky - to say the least - to take such a one sided position! To all the comments that show an obvious lack in knowledge of the Swiss political landscape: You can compare the SVP pretty much with the US Republicans. I personally could not vote for either of them, but these are widely supported mainstream parties with little appeal to NeoNazies and other right-wing thugs. Just another reason to be suspicious of these skin cravings ...

AP2009-02-20 01:04:06
Mr. Sanders, for your clarification this article was sent almost a week ago, originally. And it seems that what you consider Republican is considered xenophobic right in other places.
This doesn't mean anything about the final outcome of the case - as I wrote the confusion is bigger and bigger, it might even result that she invented the case. As for the "police landscape", it doesn't seem advisable in any case - and whatever the outcome may be.

AP2009-02-20 01:08:36
Switzerland, Austria, Germany, northern Europe, even Italy are full of shameful cases like this one - if she fooled everybody, that's because crimes like the one described by her aren't surprises anymore. Don't you think?

Jerry Sanders2009-02-20 01:23:15
I thought I made myself clear that I am no friend of Republican politics. But if people argue that parties drawing between 25-40% of the popular vote should be banished ... they probably do not understand democracy very well - just my humble opinion.

AP2009-02-20 02:38:07
I thought not only SVP proposed the referendum?
Also, how great was the popular adherence to Hitler's party in Germany?

Jerry Sanders2009-02-20 03:09:54
For years I wished the SVP would be punished for all their incendiary propaganda before elections ... but forbidding the party ... please, do you AP (or is it AP ???) think the people voting for them will disappear, as well? As you mention, democracy is not perfect - but applying 'simple' solutions may make things really complicated!

AP2009-02-20 04:02:05
I think any xenophobic party should be prohibited. That's not simple, those are just the limits of democracy.

AP2009-02-20 04:07:46
A party and its members are free to have their opinions and choices and political views - as long as they don't cross the border when it comes to disrespecting other human beings and their basic rights. I don't care if it's the SVP or another smaller party. If they have such ideologies, first of all the state has to give the example and make them illegal - they don't respect the Constitution.

Jerry Sanders2009-02-20 05:33:59
Nice ... but not practical.

Dimitrios Kontopodis2009-02-20 12:53:55
I disagree with any attempt to prohibit any ideology. It is undemocratic and, most important of all, ineffective.
Since this story is controversial, I havent really understood why the article takes this one-sided stance. After all, it is not "the police" that says that she wasn't pregnant, it is the Zürcher Institut für Rechtsmedizin of the University of Zurich. And this sounds realiable to me.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-20 18:47:16
Mr. Kontopodis, what you have going in the article is ideology and activism put ahead of the facts of the matter. Unfortunately that has become habitual in the journalistic world in which we live today. You can now expect this comment to be branded "biased" and "defamatory." Just watch!

AP2009-02-20 23:44:08
It was written few days after the attack, and after the President of Brazil himself manifested his indignation and demanded for justice in this case. Anyway, Ovi is a magazine of opinion, I should underline... so I felt free to give mine.

Also, I have deliberately let it stay like that, even after the reports were contradictory - thus, making a fool of myself or not was not important to me.

Why? Because the subject matter underlying this story, which I wanted to discuss, is much more important. Mr. Paparella seems to agree with this when he notices xenophobia in Europe (but seems to miss it otherwise).

By the way the reports are still contradictory, with some affirming that Paula Oliveira was forced to sign a document saying she invented the case. (Yes, truth has many sides! Welcome to the real world...)

Mr. Kontopolis, I disagree that any attempt to prohibit unconstitutional ideologies in the form of a political party is undemocratic - on the contrary. The ideologies are not prohibited in themselves, anybody is free to have his own, but to form a political and legal party based on xenophobia and similar...? wait a minute!
The point is not to be effective, it is to be dignified and congruent with a constitution according to which all humans are born equal and the citizens have the same rights... right?

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-21 00:22:33
"Mr. Paparella: if you read Swiss newspapers you'll have an even MORE complementary version of the incident!" (Ms. AP)

Which in effect means that truth is xenophobic and nationalistic; depending on which newspaper one reads it becomes Swiss or Finnish, or Portuguese, or Italian. It sounds like prostituted truth to my ears.

AP2009-02-21 01:26:40
Welcome to the media world and to the hypocrisy of our societies.
Now I bet you own the non-prostituted truth...

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-21 02:10:15
"Now I bet you own the non-prostituted truth..."

If you expect an answer or a bet on such an ad hominem argument, you are bound to be disappointed Ms. Pereira. There will not be any.

AP2009-02-21 02:45:38
The victim, of course.

Jerry Sanders2009-02-21 19:13:16
If it's "because of the subject's matter underlying the story", why don't you chose a story that actually has happened? Xenophobia unfortunately does exist in Switzerland, as it does in any other country of this planet. But to hint that the evil police forces of this Banana Republic may have forced this lawyer, who has the support of her daddy lawyer to sign some documents is not only preposterous, it's really becoming insulting to the people living there - so do yourself a favor and try to save some credibility.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-22 08:46:58
But Mr. Sanders, the very idea of credibility is predicated on the belief that truth is objective and is not relative to the circumstances in which one finds oneself or one's pet ideology, otherwise known as "many-sided." That relativizing of truth is the crucial overarcing issue that remains to be discussed, not the cuts on Ms. Olivera's belly wich by themselves is a mere phenomenon indicating that her belly was cut by a shart object, period, and explains nothing. The corollary issue that remains to be discussed is the inabilit of those with ideological lenses to distinguish facts from interpretation thus leading to the prostitution of truth.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-22 08:50:46
Errata: overarching, sharp, inability.

Emanuel Paparella2009-02-22 14:51:27
"...the subject matter underlying this story, which I wanted to discuss, is much more important. Mr. Paparella seems to agree with this when he notices xenophobia in Europe (but seems to miss it otherwise."

P.S. The above statement clarifies my point: one takes a half truth or even a lie and uses it to push the ideological point or story that one wants to discuss, considered more important than the truth itself. In America we have a man who has been exhibiting that phenomenon consistently in his so called documentary films; his name is Michael More.

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