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Macedonian Minority Organization OMO Pirin Intimidated by Bulgarian Police and Nationalists at Macedonian Commemoration

November 24, 2004


On Sunday, September 12, 2004, OMO Pirin, the political party of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, intended to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Vartolomey Night (massacre of Macedonians in Bulgaria in 1924). They had informed the local authorities that the event would take place at the Gotse Delchev monument in the centre of the city of Blagoevgrad. Approximately 80 OMO Pirin members arrived at the Gotse Delchev monument intending to lay wreaths and flowers but they were surrounded by members of the Bulgarian nationalistic party VMRO and were prevented from reaching the monument. The Bulgarian police, who were present during the incident, refused to intervene.

After a long negotiation, OMO Pirin were forced into a compromise with the VMRO members; the police would ask them to vacate the area around the statue if OMO Pirin agreed to not hold any speeches. VMRO and the Bulgarian police, yet again, clearly violated the Macedonians’ right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

Prior to temporarily vacating the area, the VMRO members placed Bulgarian flags on the statue in an obvious attempt at provoking OMO Pirin (considering that the Bulgarian government was directly involved in the genocide that OMO Pirin was there to commemorate.) When OMO Pirin reached the statue, the VMRO members returned and verbally assaulted them while the Macedonians attempted to hold their commemoration. As soon as the OMO Pirin members left, VMRO destroyed the wreaths and flowers while the police watched.

While OMO Pirin traveled to the nearby church to light candles in memory of the Macedonian heroes, they were followed by the local police and Bulgarian secret police to ensure that no speeches were held. There were numerous negative press articles the next day and VMRO even announced that they would request that the Bulgarian president proclaim OMO Pirin as terrorists.

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada calls on the international community, and specifically the European Union, to apply pressure on Bulgaria to immediately recognize its large Macedonian minority and grant it the human rights that it is guaranteed by all international human rights conventions. Moreover, the MHRMC calls on the European Union to make Bulgaria's accession to the European Union explicitly conditional on its recognition of its Macedonian minority.

Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada

     
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