Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
Press Release
MHRMC Criticism of US State Department Report on Greece

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada (MHRMC) 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: 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.

The following statement gives the impression that the US State Department is an apologist for the Greek government's continued repression of the Macedonian minority:

"The Government was concerned that members of the "Macedonian” minority may have separatist aspirations. The Government's dispute with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia over that name heightened this sensitivity.”

As the Greek Helsinki Monitor stated in its press release of 2002:

"[The US State Department report] does not mention though the repeated denials of such allegations by all activists. In fact, as there has never been even one such statement, the mere mention in the report of the Greek government's defamatory allegation cannot but do service to the government. Such impression is strengthened by the absence of any reference to the case of the non-registration of the Home of Macedonian Civilization (and of the Rousali association), in both the 2000 and 2001 reports.”

The US State Department also chose to ignore the repeated cases of ethnic Macedonians being denied entry into Greece, the continued persecution of Macedonian priest, Father Nikodim Tsarknias, who was verbally attacked, slandered and even arrested on live Greek television, the refusal to register two Macedonian cultural organizations, and the general refusal by Greek society to engage in any debate on the Macedonian issue, much less its recognition.

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
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada
Address: P.O. Box 44532, 2376 Eglinton Ave. East, Toronto, Canada M1K 5K3
Tel: 416-493-9555 Fax: 416-412-3385
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