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Thousands of ethnic Hungarians call for autonomy

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OLIMPIU GHEORHGIU | October 28, 2013 07:07 AM EST | AP


TARGU SECUIESC, Romania (AP) — Thousands of ethnic Hungarians held rallies on Sunday to demand autonomy for their minority group in the areas where they live in Romania.

The marches — with people singing, waving Hungarian flags, and riding horses and carriages — were held Sunday in 14 communities of Transylvania, including the town of Targu Secuiesc.

In Budapest, Hungary, thousands marched to the Romanian Embassy carrying a sign reading "Territorial autonomy for Szeklerland" referring to the stretches of Romania where ethnic Hungarians are concentrated. Others chanted, "Szeklerland is not Romania."

There were also rallies held in the Hungarian cities of Debrecen and Szolnok.

The Civic Cooperation Forum, which organized the demonstrations, said it would send a petition to the European Union and the Romanian government to call for the cause of Szekler autonomy to be taken into consideration.

Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until after World War I, when the ethnic Romanian majority in Transylvania created Romania.

Today, ethnic Hungarians make up about 6 percent of Romania's population of 19 million. Community leader Kelemen Hunor told The Associated Press on Sunday that they want territorial autonomy to maintain their ethnic identity and grow economically.

Romanian politicians have opposed granting the minority that privilege.

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Pablo Gorondi in Budapest, Hungary, and Alison Mutler in Bucharest, Romania, contributed to this report.