By Bill Nicholov, President, Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
One of my kids' friends was talking about how his ethnic group doesn't get along with another ethnic group because of long-standing tensions between the two. He discussed how his parents taught him how “bad” the other group was. He then asked, "So who do you hate?“ Our answer - ”Nobody."
But how do I tell my kids that a lot of people hate us?
We're Macedonian. Just saying the name of our ethnic group evokes outrage from our oppressors. Yes, our existence causes outrage. Our country's name is Macedonia. It always has been, even during hundreds of years of foreign occupation. But it is now being forcibly changed. And so is our ethnic identity.
So what should I tell my kids? How do I tell them that our ethnic group is being forcibly renamed and redefined? That our identity is being given away to our oppressors. That the history of our people is being rewritten to satisfy those who want to eradicate us. That our basic human rights are being violated in every way imaginable. And that Canada, the country of our birth, is celebrating and aiding in the eradication of the country of our blood.
Canada has publicly supported the brutal US-led tactics in renaming Macedonia, including physical detainment and intimidation of female MPs, threats against their families, imprisonment of dissenters, attacks and beatings by riot police, violations of the Macedonian constitution, parliamentary rules and criminal code, shutting down media outlets and social media access, and shockingly, much more.
During a meeting that I had with Kati Csaba, the Canadian ambassador to Macedonia, she informed me that Canada will now recognize “North Macedonia”, instead of Macedonia (despite all the evidence presented to her, including details of meetings I've had with FM Chrystia Freeland and her foreign policy advisors). The forced name change instantly relegates our ethnic identity to “Northern Macedonian”. So what is a Macedonian then? Three recent US/EU imposed treaties on Macedonia - the Prespa Agreement, ironically-named Friendship Agreement and the Law on Languages - give Macedonia's history, identity and name to Greece, Bulgaria and Albania. Partition of Macedonia once again, but this one with a modern twist.
In 1913, the entire region of Macedonia was partitioned among Serbia (now the independent Republic of Macedonia), Bulgaria, Greece and Albania. Macedonians have been fighting attempts at eradication, forcible assimilation and competing claims to our name since then. So how can Macedonia be Serbian, Bulgarian, Greek, and Albanian all at once? Macedonia is Macedonian. Political games and corruption cannot be permitted to erase an age-old nationality. Let's not forget the irony too, that Greece outlawed the term “Macedonia” in 1913 and denied its existence until a dramatic propaganda switch in 1988, when it began a campaign of trying to deceive the world into believing that Macedonia belonged to them.
Put yourself in our shoes. What if your ethnic identity was being given away while the Western world participated in its demise, then celebrated with claims that a "diplomatic dispute" was being solved?
Look at one of a multitude of Pier 21 and Ellis Island documents from the early 1900s recognizing Macedonian immigrants to North America having a Macedonian nationality despite being under Turkish occupation. Now, at the stroke of a pen, our identity and history are being erased. My family came to Canada to escape persecution by Greece, Albania, Bulgaria and Serbia. Their “crime”? Being Macedonian. Now Canada is aiding our oppressors in wiping out our ethnicity.
Kati, you told me that you are of Hungarian descent. So what if Hungary was forcibly renamed “West Hungary” and the definition of “Hungarian” was suddenly given to Romania? What if Hungarian history was being rewritten by a group of Romanians, as Macedonian history is being rewritten by a panel of Greek diplomats (as per Article 8 (5) of the anti-Macedonian Prespa Agreement). What would you do if there was a 19-page document telling you that you and your ancestors suddenly have a new identity and that everything you ever knew about your ethnic group is now being changed?
Kati, we all deserve a response. And Macedonians deserve action. Without it, you ARE teaching hate.
Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International (MHRMI) has been active on human and national rights issues for Macedonians and other oppressed peoples since 1986. For more information: 1-416-850-7125, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.mhrmi.org, twitter.com/mhrmi, facebook.com/mhrmi, mhrmi.org/OurNameIsMacedonia.