03 Nov 2017

Will Budapest's Aurora return to life?

Aurora was a cultural center frequented by youngsters who wanted to attend hip concerts and give back to their community. When the far-right began describing it as the “Hungarian HQ of George Soros” it was equal to a death sentence.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Will Budapest's Aurora return to life? - NewsMavens
Audience at a concert. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

Sometimes a clash of values is best examined in microscale. That is the case of Aurora, a cultural center in Budapest abruptly shut down by the district authorities this summer.

For a long time, Aurora was an unknown gem in the middle of Budapest. It was frequented by young people who wanted to attend hip concerts and give back to their community. It was a pub, a concert venue and an HQ for several opposition groups and NGOs; among others, the biggest Hungarian LGBTQ organization. It had a unique vibe: one could just chill and enjoy the music, but it was also a space for weighty conversations on how to improve the situation in the country.

"The Calvary of Aurora" started this summer, when a speaker at a conference organized by far-right groups described it as the “Hungarian HQ of George Soros”. The Hungarian-American billionaire is a public enemy both for the far-right and for the Hungarian government. They despise his liberal values, and use him as a scapegoat for the migration crisis.

Calling Aurora his HQ was equal to a death sentence; not much later a 14-hour-long police operation went underway. Officers checked 117 people but found less than 2 grams of “suspicious herbal substance”. District authorities later announced that Aurora lacked crucial licenses to operate. The offices continued functioning, but the pub and the garden area, which were the main source of income for the center, were shut down. Recently, a court in Budapest repealed the decision. But will the authorities accept it?

Aurora, the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology, is reborn every morning. Whether the Hungarian Aurora will be have this super power remains an open question.

Details from the story:

  • One of the resolutions that made the partial shutdown of Aurora possible has been repealed. It was not the first time a court decided in favor of Aurora: in August it repealed another resolution.
  • District authorities did not order the partial shutdown of Aurora only due to the lack of licenses: they cited “public safety” and “pressure from those living nearby” among the reasons.
  • Aurora’s legal representative is a lawyer from the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a renowned international human rights NGO.
  • The person who called Aurora the “Hungarian HQ of George Soros” was Nick Griffin, former leader of the British National Party. VICE once called him “Britain’s most famous racist politician”.

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