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United Nations 61th Session of the Commission on Human Rights
14 March – 22 April 2005, Geneva


The Macedonian Minority in Bulgaria
Report by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC)


Table of Contents

Introduction
Bulgaria Denies Registration of Macedonian Organizations
Defamation of Macedonians on Bulgarian Television
OMO PIRIN’s Office Vandalized
Macedonian Activists Arrested/Detained
Expulsion from Work
Interference by Bulgarian Authorities at Macedonian Commemorations
Conclusion
Contact Information for Macedonian Activists in Bulgaria

Introduction

The Bulgarian government has and continues to place unlawful restrictions on a number of fundamental rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. Whether it be through outright discrimination, the uneven application of laws which on their surface do not seem to discriminate against the Macedonian minority, or through unlawful conduct of officials, the effect is the same: Macedonians in Bulgaria who choose to openly identify as Macedonians repeatedly suffer abuses of their human rights.

Bulgaria Denies Registration of Macedonian Organizations

OMO Ilinden, a Macedonian cultural and human rights organization in Bulgaria, won their European Court of Human Rights case against Bulgaria on October 2, 2001, in which the ECHR ruled that there had been a violation of Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights. OMO Ilinden was founded in 1990 to unite Macedonians in Bulgaria on a regional and cultural basis and to achieve recognition of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria. In 1991 the association was refused registration as the courts ruled that its aims were directed against the unity of the nation, that it advocated ethnic hatred and was dangerous for the territorial integrity of Bulgaria. (ECHR Press Release – Oct.2, 2001)

It was hoped that the ruling in favour of OMO Ilinden would pave the way for immediate registration of the organization and a positive effect on human rights developments in Bulgaria in the future. However, OMO Ilinden has still not been registered. The two Macedonian political parties, OMO PIRIN and OMO Ilinden PIRIN (the latter was de-registered in 2000 and has initiated a European Court case against Bulgaria), have also not been registered. Following are some of the outrageous reasons used by the Sofia court to refuse OMO PIRIN’s application for registration on 12 December 2002:

1. The name PIRIN may be confused with the mountain by the same name
2. The Macedonian sun on OMO PIRIN’s flag is the same as the flag of the Republic of Macedonia (this despite the fact that the Republic of Macedonia changed its flag in 1995)
3. The organization wants to change the ethnic consciousness of the Bulgarian population by making them Macedonians
4. The Constitution of OMO PIRIN did not cover all aspects of the organizational structure of the organization such as elections, delegates, etc. (in fact, the Constitution was written by a lawyer).

Despite the European Court’s ruling, it is apparent that the Bulgarian government has no intention of registering these Macedonian organizations.

Defamation of Macedonians on Bulgarian Television

The following is a press release by the MHRMC issued on March 13, 2005.

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC) condemns the recent defamation and ridicule of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Bulgaria by two of the national television stations: Bulgarian TV (BTV - www.btv.bg) and Bulgarian National Television (BNT - www.bnt.bg).

On March 6th 2005, on the weekly show “Sblusuk” (Conflict), www.sblusuk.com, which airs every Sunday at 9:00 on Bulgarian Television, the theme of debate was “Do the Macedonian language and nation really exist II”.

This highly nationalistic and racist topic had been previously debated on the show on January 27th, 2002, with the sole intention being to “prove” that Macedonians do not exist and that they are in fact Bulgarians. In front of a cheering and applauding studio audience, the 2002 episode set a new low for publicly sanctioned racism, xenophobia and intolerance toward the Macedonian minority of Bulgaria.

Remarkably, the recent 2005 episode was worse. One side of the debate – supported by Nikola Georgiev, a Bulgarian TV host and Nikolai Knchev, vice-president of the Ultra-Nationalist Bulgarian VMRO party – argued that Macedonians do not exist and that they are really Bulgarians and on the other side – supported by Christian Bankov, a Doctor of Philosophy and Aleksandar Dimitrov, a student – there was a general consensus that Macedonians were previously Bulgarians but it is possible that they can now exist as Macedonians and that this should be accepted.

Regardless, the main conclusion derived from the show was that there are only two types of “Macedonians”: those who are illiterate and those who are “professional Macedonians”, ie. Serbian agents who say they are Macedonian in order to save their pay.

Moreover, the show went on to argue that the Republic of Macedonia does not have an ounce of democracy in it, maintaining that students in Macedonia have been physically mistreated by the police for declaring themselves as Bulgarians. They also accused Macedonia of not being democratic enough to host a talk-show similar to theirs – i.e. A show whose sole purpose is to espouse national ideology at the expense of its ethnic minorities.

The episode also went on to note some statistics, stating that “between the two World Wars 170.000 Bulgarians were killed in Macedonia – 30.000 during WWII – for fighting to join Macedonia to their fatherland Bulgaria". This is not only factually incorrect, but there was also no mention of the Macedonian position and Macedonian activists and members of the large ethnic Macedonian minority in Bulgaria were not asked to appear on the show.

At the end of January of this year, on the weekly show “Every Sunday” – which airs every Sunday at 5:30pm on Bulgarian National Television - the topic of debate was whether or not the Macedonian language should be used in schools and on TV within the Republic of Bulgaria.

Though it was obvious that the underlying arguments put forth by the show’s host, Kevork Kevorkian, promoted the usual Bulgarian nationalist hard-line: that Macedonians do not exist and that their language is a dialect of Bulgarian, the show was particularly bad in this instance because of its inability to present the other side of the argument, namely to allow members of the sizable Macedonian minority in Bulgaria as well as Macedonian activists in Bulgaria to voice their opinion. Instead, the program showcased a fervent, anti-Macedonian, Greek nationalist named Christopher Tzavela, who ranted about how Macedonians do not exist and how their language should never be allowed on television and in schools.

OMO PIRIN (www.omopirin.org), the political party of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria, sent a letter to the show expressing their views, however, they were not allowed equal time.

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada denounces the above rhetoric by the Bulgarian media and is appalled that these state-sanctioned abuses take place in a country that is set to enter the European Union. The MHRMC 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.

The MHRMC also asks the international conglomerate, News Corporation, which owns 100% of BTV and which also owns Fox, Direct TV and many other media outlets, to carry out its own investigation in regards to the portrayal of minorities – especially the ethnic Macedonians – on BTV in Bulgaria and remind it that its assets should not be used for open and public defamation of minorities in foreign countries.

Note: Since these programs aired, a number of Macedonian organizations and individuals sent protest letters and emails to the television stations. They often read viewer email on air, but not one opposing view was broadcast. Furthermore, Stojko Stojkov, an executive member of OMO PIRIN, sent an open letter to BTV and the newspapers Monitor, Dnevnik, Standart, and Struma, but it was not published. He had left his mobile number as contact information for the letter to the editor, and he subsequently received a text message signed by the Bulgarian VMRO (nationalistic Bulgarian political party) stating “Die You Dirty Srbophile Traitors”.

OMO PIRIN’s Office Vandalized

OMO PIRIN’s office in the city of Goce Delchev is the constant target of vandals and has been damaged several times. For example, on the evening of September 22, 2004, unidentified persons destroyed the party’s flag, which was the fourth such incident within a few months. The police, however, have refused to take action because the damage is “less than 50 Euros” However, they refuse to take into consideration the fact that this is happening to a party and a party’s symbol. OMO PIRIN suspects that the perpetrators are a young group of Neo-Nazis, as well as members and sympathizers to the ultra-nationalist Bulgarian VMRO, whom are notorious for having close ties to the policy in this city.

On October 1, 2004, three flags were stolen from OMO PIRIN’s office but again the police refused to investigate. With the request from order no 271/04 for 12/02/2004 Mr. Anton Vencislavov Dimitrov, a District Attorney from a lower court in the city of Goce Delcev, asserts that there will be no official inquiry into the theft of three flags from the club of the party OMO PIRIN for the following reasons: “The act officially meets the criteria to be labeled as theft. However, because of the small value of the flags as well as the obvious unknown menace to society...”

Macedonian Activists Arrested/Detained

On the 6th of August 2003, in Goce Delcev, Ivan Gargavelov, a member and adviser to OMO PIRIN, approached Nikolina Chakrdkova, in the presence of Dimitar Moskov, and asked her why she is plagiarizing Macedonian folklore and authored songs, why she is declaring them as her own, and why she is repeatedly presenting them as Bulgarian, going even so far as adding the word “Bulgarian”. He told her that this furthers anti-Macedonian propaganda.

The next day they were arrested and taken into the police station within the bureau of deputy chief Georgi Vasilev Barakov where the aforementioned lady was also present. While there, they were served a document, which charged them with hooliganism and disturbance of the peace. Within the station they gave a written statement, however this was not presented to the court. Subsequently, they were immediately taken away to the city courts where judge Kostadin Popover promptly found them guilty and ordered them to pay a fine. They were then not allowed to appeal or to file a complaint to a higher court. All of this occurred without the defendants having access to a lawyer. The defendants have taken their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

At the end of September 2004 in the city of Goce Delchev, a teacher by the name of Dimitar Srbakov, a sympathizer of OMO PIRIN and a contributor to Macedonian Sun magazine, was taken into police custody without a warrant. State security forces try to force Mr. Srbakov to write a declaration that the essays in the Macedonian Sun magazine are not his and that they are plagiarized. In regards to these articles, Mr. Srbakov is undertaking a civil suit against Staljo Stalev, because the latter called the former a degenerate numerous times in the local newspaper. The suit has dragged on for more than 2 years in court without any end or resolution in sight. A lesser court passed the manner to a higher court. During the proceedings in the higher court, Mr. Srbakov was not given any chance to speak nor present his case, while the other party was allowed to speak for thirty minutes, and when Mr. Srbakov objected, the judge apparently got offended and asked Mr. Srbakov to leave his courtroom or that he would call the police. Mr. Srbakov did not leave and the judge closed the courtroom, returning the case to the lower court. Throughout this entire case there have been numerous delays, due to formal reasons, as well as “health reasons” and other reasons. If Mr. Srbakov had agreed to declare that he did not write these articles, this might lead to an ending of the suit against Staljo Stalev. At the same time Mr. Stalev lay charges against Mr. Srbakov within the state court, which led of a chain of events to find Mr. Srbakov. The charges/interrogations were undertaken by the District Attorney Chilev and by another officer Vlahov, who after extensively questioning Mr. Srbakov, gave him a questionnaire with 8 questions such as: what does OMO PIRIN fight for, what is the difference between being a sympathizer and a member, is it true that he read out a declaration of this party at some gathering, and more… After the local court authorities found that they had no ground for laying charges the state court intervened and told them they did not undertake the investigation and interrogation correctly, forced the police to bring in Mr. Srbakov again into the police. He was called in again and the next day the police officer Halacev, who had previously denied identifying himself and giving his rank. At the same time the Supreme Court of Bulgaria contacted the Supreme Court of Macedonia, with a demand that they make themselves aware of the articles by Mr. Srbakov in the Macedonian Sun magazine and also they demanded from the magazine itself to answer the question as to who wrote the articles. They have still not received an answer. The articles by Mr. Srbakov maintain that the Macedonian nation exists and that it is awakening in Bulgaria.

The following is a press release issued by the MHRMC on December 30, 2003:

On November 16, 2003, Georgi Radulov, a member of the Macedonian minority political party in Bulgaria, OMO Ilinden PIRIN, was harassed by Bulgarian police in Sofia airport when returning from Brussels, Belgium. Mr. Radulov had attended the European Free Alliance meeting in the European Parliament on November 13-14, where he had advocated recognition and human rights for the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria.

At passport control in Sofia, Bulgarian police seized Mr. Radulov’s passport and told the other people in line to “Go to the other entrance because we have a lot more work with this citizen”. Mr. Radulov asked why he was being held up and he asked the policeman to identify himself. The police officer refused to answer either question. He then led Mr. Radulov to the customs area and an official named Zhivko Dulev bombarded Mr. Radulov with questions about his whereabouts, the purpose of his visit to Brussels, and exactly what he had said. Mr. Radulov demanded to know the reason for this interrogation and he was told that the order came from the lieutenant.

All of the documents that Mr. Radulov had from the European Parliament meeting were also seized and Mr. Radulov’s luggage was searched. Police later returned the documents after apparently photocopying them. Mr. Radulov demanded a written declaration outlining the details of the search. He finally received a document with the name of the presiding official, Ivan Mihailov, but a reason for the search was never given. The whole ordeal lasted about two hours.

According to Mr. Radulov, “Bulgarian authorities try to intimidate Macedonian human rights activists – we are constantly monitored, videotaped, and threatened if we raise the issue of recognition and human rights for the Macedonians in Bulgaria.”

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.

Expulsion from Work

Macedonian activists have been fired from their jobs because of their advocacy of Macedonian human rights. Stefan Micov-Vlahov, the president of the society for independent writers of Bulgaria and professor and Doctor of Philosophy, was recently laid off and told that the reason “downsizing of the academic group” even though he had the most seniority and he was the only one let go. Botjo Vangelov, the co-president of OMO PIRIN, was forced to leave his job as director of a dormitory.

Interference by Bulgarian Authorities at Macedonian Commemorations

Macedonians have been videotaped, harassed, beaten, fined, and even imprisoned simply for taking part in the following important Macedonian cultural events.

February - Blagoevgrad
Commemoration in honour of Macedonian hero Gotse Delchev’s birthday


Police attempted to block OMO PIRIN’s commemoration on Feb.2, 2005, but the OMO PIRIN members would not relent. The police eventually allowed the commemoration to take place.

April - Sandanski
Anniversary of Macedonian revolutionary Yane Sandanski's death


OMO PIRIN received a permit from the mayor of Sandanski to hold a commemoration on April 24, 2005. They proceeded to advertise the event to local Macedonians and the Macedonian diaspora because of its historical significance. OMO PIRIN recently learned that the mayor has revoked the permit and instead gave it to the Focus News Agency, which has never before celebrated this event and is notorious for its anti-Macedonian rhetoric.

In April 2004, OMO Ilinden notified the authorities in the municipality of Sandanski that it would organize commemorative activities near the Rozhen Monastery on 18 April between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. However, the mayor issued a permit for the event to be organized only between 10 A.M. and noon without stating any reason for this limitation. (IHF report to the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights)

May - Blagoevgrad
Anniversary of the killing of Macedonian hero Gotse Delchev


On the 03/05/2004, the police chief of the city of Blagoevgrad, Vasil Mitov, ordered the leaders of the Macedonian parties (OMO Ilinden and OMO PIRIN), not to undertake provocations within the Municipality of Blagoevgrad in commemoration of the 101 anniversary of the death of Goce Delchev, without the permission of the Mayor. They are not to be allowed to demonstrate or to allow their members to wave” flags and other symbols which are foreign to Bulgaria, nor are they allowed to raise commemorative plates with anti-Bulgarian writings and that they will be held accountable in front of the law.

July/August – Petrich
Celebration of the Ilinden uprising of August 2, 1903


In August, a request by OMO Ilinden to commemorate the 1903 anniversary of the Ilinden Uprising by organizing an event in Samuilova Krepost, near Petrich, was turned down by the Petrich mayor. The mayor sought to justify his decision by saying that another organization had filed a request to organize an assembly on the same spot on the same day and time. The Petrich District Court later overturned this decision. (IHF report to the 61st Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights)

September - Blagoevgrad

On Sunday, September 12, 2004, OMO PIRIN intended to commemorate 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 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. Similar incidents, sometimes with more severe consequences, occur every time a Macedonian organization intends to hold an event in Bulgaria.

On September 12, 2003 the mayor of Blagoevgrad denied the plea by OMO PIRIN and OMO Ilinden to gather in front of the statue of Goce Delchev in the city, because this might lead to a “disturbance of the peace and also that it might lead to a breaking of human rights and freedoms of the people.” No 08-00-1080/12.09.2003.

In September 2004, the municipality of Blagoevgrad, with letter no. 53-00-134/20.04.2004 informed the Macedonian organizations in regards to their intentions to lay wreaths in front of the statue of Goce Delchev in the city, citing that in principle they could do that, however they can not be organized in any way while they are moving through the city. Furthermore, it is mentioned that “Stating that Goce Delchev is a Macedonian Revolutionary is unconstitutional and provocative. Your assembly will lead to a climate where the public order can be broken and where conflicts can occur.” Moreover, the letter also stated that because the municipality had scheduled many holiday observances within the city square, it will not allow for the Macedonian commemoration to take place. It was signed by Lazar Prizhkarov, Mayor.

Conclusion

Macedonians in Bulgaria continuously face discrimination and intimidation when asserting their ethnic Macedonian identity. As a country that is preparing to enter the European Union, Bulgaria must respect its minorities’ human rights and put an end to its state-endorsed acts of oppression.

MHRMI 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, MHRMI 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 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

Contact Information for Macedonian Activists in Bulgaria

For more information, please contact Macedonian Human Rights Movement International or the following organizations of Macedonians in Bulgaria:

OMO Ilinden
Jordan Kostadinov Ivanov
Ul. Georgi Skrizovski # 31
Sandanski, Bulgaria
Tel/Fax: ++359-746-29-133

OMO PIRIN
Stojko Stojkov
Blagoevgrad 2 700, zh. K. Elenovo
bl 6 B ap. 6, pk Meckarovi
tel: ++ 3598879 75531
fax ++ 359746 23693
E-mail: makedoncitevbugarija@yahoo.com
Website: www.omopirin.org

OMO Ilinden Pirin
Ivan Singartiski
Oblast Blagoevgradska
Selo Mosomiste, Postenski Kod 2920, Bulgaria
Ivan Gargavelov - secretary
++359-751-24-834
E-mail: info@omoilindenpirin.org
Website: www.omoilindenpirin.org

Sonce – Organization of Islamic Macedonians
President - Damjan Iskrenov
h. ++359-754-5-2808
m. ++359-876-54-347

     
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