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MHRMC - Press Release

MMHRMC Condemns US State Department’s Continued Misrepresentation of the Macedonian Minority in Greece

May 11, 2005



The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC) condemns the US State Department’s systematic policy of questioning the legitimacy of the Macedonian minority in Greece. Every year, the US State Dept. issues its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”, which perpetuates stereotypes against Macedonians rather than focusing on actual human rights abuses committed by Greece against Macedonians.

On April 7, 2003, the MHRMC issued a press release following the US State Department’s “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Greece” protesting its continued misrepresentation of the Macedonian minority. The Greek Helsinki Monitor also protested with the US State Department, boycotted the US Embassy in Greece, and filed complaints with the Helsinki Commission of the US Congress. Following these protests, the US State Department made some changes in its 2003 report (issued on February 25, 2004) but it is still grossly inadequate and mirrors the official Greek position that the Macedonian minority is illegitimate. Following are excerpts from our 2003 press release which are, unfortunately, still relevant following the US State Department’s latest report:

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada is appalled by the US State Department’s continued misrepresentation of the Macedonian minority in Greece in its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – 2002: Greece”. Despite numerous appeals by the MHRMC and other international NGOs, (see the Greek Helsinki Monitor’s press release of March 18, 2002: www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm/ghm_18_03_02.rtf) the US State Department continues to make erroneous statements regarding this minority in what can only be seen as an attempt to appease Greek sensitivities to the Macedonian issue. For example, when referring to the Macedonian minority, the US State Department places the term Macedonian in quotation marks. This gives the impression that the US State Department agrees with the official Greek position that this minority is illegitimate. The Macedonian minority and language are internationally recognized as such but the US State Department questions its legitimacy throughout this report by referring to it as “Slavo-Macedonian”, “Slavic dialect” and by making statements such as:

“Northwestern Greece is home to an indeterminate number of citizens who speak a Slavic dialect at home, particularly in Florina province. Estimates ranged widely, from under 10,000 to 50,000. A small number identified themselves as belonging to a distinct ethnic group and asserted their right to “Macedonian” minority status.”

Most estimates place the Macedonian minority at well over the numbers stated above. Macedonians live throughout the region of Aegean Macedonia, not just in the Lerin/Florina district. Furthermore, a large number identify as ethnic Macedonians, not an insignificant segment of the population as this report indicates.

Several local and international NGOs, including local Macedonian activists in Greece, have repeatedly contacted the US State Department in order to provide information about the human rights abuses suffered by the Macedonian minority. The US State Department selectively chooses which information to use which gives credit to the argument that its main agenda is to pursue its own interests, not the achievement of human rights for oppressed minorities. The Greek Helsinki Monitor ended its 2002 press release by stating:

“[The US State Department’s] attitude towards Macedonians in Greece, as reflected in the annual reports, cannot therefore be considered an oversight, or a result of lack of information; on the contrary it is a sustained and deliberate policy of complacency towards Greek authorities on the most sensitive human rights issue in Greece. Such complacency is not shown towards Bulgarian authorities that have a similar sensitivity for Macedonians, whose problems are mentioned in the relevant chapter.”

The MHRMC calls on the US State Department to correct its past errors and issue an immediate press release to rectify its erroneous statements about the Macedonian minority in Greece.

Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Address: 157 Adelaide St. West, Suite 434, Toronto, Canada M5H 4E7
Tel: 416-850-7125 Fax: 416-850-7127
E-mail: info@mhrmi.org Website: www.mhrmi.org

     
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