By Bill Nicholov, President, Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
If someone told you that a name used to describe their ethnic group is deeply offensive, would you continue to use that name and even try to convince them that it is not offensive?
NO. So stop calling me a “North Macedonian” from “North Macedonia”. I am Macedonian from Macedonia. Any other term is designed to negate my ethnic identity. Maybe you didn't know that before, but you do now.
But the people (namely US and EU politicians) who are forcibly changing the Republic of Macedonia's name into “North Macedonia” and our identity into “North Macedonian” already know this. So why is it happening? To appease Greece, the very country that admits to trying to eradicate Macedonia. The Greek government is now even publicly celebrating that the US/EU-imposed “Prespa Agreement” (that changes Macedonia's name) also officially denies Macedonians' rights to our own identity. Article 7(2) officially hands over the term “Macedonia” to Greece. Article 8(5) mandates that a panel of Greek diplomats rewrite Macedonian history and that Macedonian textbooks be rewritten. Yes, really.
How can a document exist that redefines everything that an ethnic group is and ever was? Imagine this happening to you.
But before even consulting the 19-page “agreement” that sets out rules about what I can call myself (am I supposed to carry around a handbook?), consider this – if a country is called “North Macedonia”, then its people will automatically be called “North Macedonian”. All of a sudden, being Macedonian means something totally different.
So why is the West obsessed with appeasing Greece at the expense of Macedonia? The short answer is, imperialistic NATO and EU expansion. Greece vowed to veto Macedonia's NATO and EU membership unless it changed its name, so the United States and Western Europe decided to abandon everything that they claim to uphold – democratic principles, respect for human rights, and international law – in order to force through NATO membership for Macedonia. The West deemed imperialism more important than human rights.
See my op-ed in the Canadian Foreign Policy Journal detailing the brutal violation of Macedonians' rights, including imprisonment, beatings, and threats against female MPs and their families. And Canada's shocking support of our demise. Then ask yourself how Western politicians, diplomats and journalists have the audacity to celebrate the forced Macedonia name change.
My message to them, and anyone else in support of the anti-Macedonian Prespa Agreement, is: Stop trying to convince me that redefining my entire ethnic group and taking away our right to self-determination and self-identification is not offensive. Stop trying to tell me that the forced renaming of our country, the mandated rewriting of our history, and the redefinition of everything it ever meant to be Macedonian is not offensive. And stop telling me that stripping away my name and identity because our oppressors demand it solves a “diplomatic dispute”.
Our name is Macedonia and our identity, history, ethnicity, culture and language are Macedonian. I ask you again, what if this were happening to your ethnic group? I personally asked that question of Canadian politicians who tried to convince me that their blind obedience of American foreign policy, at the expense of my ethnic group, is actually a “good thing”.
- To Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland: “If you were of Macedonian, instead of Ukrainian ethnic background, what would Canada’s policy be? Would you support the handing over of Ukraine's name, identity and history to Russia?”
- To Kati Csaba, Canada's Ambassador to Macedonia, who is of Hungarian descent: “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? 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?”
- To Helene Laverdiere, the New Democratic Party's Foreign Affairs Critic: “Did you even read the 19-page 'agreement' that eradicates our Macedonian ethnicity? What if the same agreement was rammed down Francophones' throats and you were told that it solved a diplomatic dispute?”
This is what Macedonians are being forced to endure. And this is us:
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. 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.
Do not allow cultural misappropriation to be rewarded. Do not allow political games and corruption to erase an age-old nationality. Our name is Macedonia. Join us in defending it. We would do the same for you.
Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International