In defence of Transylvania’s Szekler flag – A letter to the editor from the American Hungarian Federation

Mr. György Lázár:

Normally we at the American Hungarian Federation would not respond to the kind of posting you made on September 22, “Exploiting the naiveté of Hans Klemm, the US ambassador to Romania,” but we are making an exception in this case since you have gratuitously defamed not only an outstanding career American diplomat but our organization as well.

The tactics you employed reflect neither a responsible use of logic nor a fair understanding of the issues involved. Any display of the Szekler flag by radical groups no more vitiates its symbolic legitimacy than that of the American flag when it is displayed by extremist groups. This is a form of guilt by association which is a thoroughly discredited polemical tactic and never used by respected interlocutors.

A sea of Szekler (székely) flags at a protest.

A sea of Szekler (székely) flags at a protest.

Your painting of Ambassador Klemm as naïve for posing with Mayor Árpád Antal of Sepsiszentgyörgy with the flag in the Hungarian speaking region of Romania is as absurd as it is ill informed. American career diplomats are highly trained experts charged with carrying out U.S. policy abroad, and it is an established feature of American interests and values to promote diversity and minority human rights around the world. Ambassador Klemm was doing nothing other than what American diplomats do elsewhere in similar circumstances.

Finally your ad hominem depiction of the American Hungarian Federation as a “right-wing organization,” is as ludicrous as it is preposterous. Our hundred year old mission in preserving Hungarians’ cultural and historical heritage and promoting minority rights has drawn popular support across the political spectrum and faith community as well as across the professions, including medicine, history, science, diplomacy, and the law. For your information, our governing board currently includes professionals with differing political views, reflecting its nature as a federation.

Since you say you enjoy spending time in Hungary, we wish you would also find it enjoyable backing our worthy mission, including our efforts to combat the discrimination confronting Hungarian minorities in their ancient homeland, instead of trying to tear it down. We would welcome
your support.


The American Hungarian Federation


Dear Mr. Koszorus,

Thank you for your feedback to my opinion piece.

There is no disagreement between us that Hungarian minority rights are a concern to many Hungarian Americans and many readers of the Hungarian Free Press. As I wrote, I find it unfortunate that the Mayor asked Ambassador Klemm to pose with the Szekler Flag and distributed the photo when the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest didn’t publish it. This was not a polite way to treat his guest.

Ambassador Klemm made it clear that only two flags are of importance to him as a diplomat: the U.S. and the Romanian. He did not mention the Szekler flag. He went on to say that some of the political leaders in Covasna asked him to take a picture together and that he accepted out of politeness. (read here)

I think that you misinterpret Ambassador Klemm’s gesture when you characterize it in your letter as a sign of “moral and political courage.” It was not.

In my view, the Mayor’s tricky action has damaged trust; this is not an effective way to win U.S. support. As you know the Szekler flag is frequently used by Hungarian neo-Nazi groups. While I agree that occasionally our American flag is displayed by extremists, the Jobbik Party has made the Szekler flag their “de facto” party flag in Transylvania. Whether we like it or not, this will make some people hesitant to be associated with this symbol. The more important question is, how can we as Hungarian-Americans fight the extreme right and the increasing penetration of the Jobbik party here in our own country, the United States?

You mentioned that your organization’s board includes professionals with differing political views. I’m certain that HFP would welcome their opinion pieces. Open discussions are the best way to debate various approaches and resolve honest disagreements.


György Lázár

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