Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
OSCE 2003 - Report by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece and Father Nikodim Tsarknias

Mister Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece has participated in all OSCE conferences since Copenhagen in 1990 and we have expressed our repeated problems with the Greek authorities. As the Athens Olympic Games draw near, the focus will be placed on Greece and we believe that this is an opportunity for the world to realize that Greece is not the democracy that it claims to be. Although Greece has signed all relevant human rights conventions, it has done nothing to implement them. We hope that the international community will place more pressure on Greece to respect the human rights agreements to which it is a signatory.

The ethnic minorities in Greece do not have the right to express their ethnic identities. The Macedonians are in an especially difficult position due to the very strong anti-Macedonian sentiment prevalent in Greece.

Since the Treaty of Bucharest, there has been a ban on Macedonian churches in Greece. Macedonian icons have been destroyed or repainted in order to cover the Macedonian inscriptions and replace them with Greek writing. Among the cities in which these wrongdoings took place are Kastoria/Kostur, Florina/Lerin, Edessa/Voden, Salonica/Solun, and Serres/Sersko.

The Greek Orthodox Church is very nationalistic and is the only church in the world that is not separated from the state. Moreover, it is incorporated into the ideological system of the Greek state, which is a reason why many of the biggest nationalists in Greece are from the church.

Considering the information just mentioned, the ethnic Macedonians decided to build a Macedonian Orthodox Church in the small city of Aridea/Sobotsko. Even though the building has not yet been completed (only a basement and the first floor have been built) it is used as a place where ethnic Macedonians exercise their religious practices in the Macedonian language. This is forbidden in Greek Orthodox churches even where the majority of parishioners are Macedonian. But the situation is far from perfect. As an example, the prefecture president has been ordered to switch a current off for our church. And as you can imagine it will be a big problem for us especially in this cold season, which is approaching because we will not be able to use the heating machines as well as water pumps, which constantly pump out the water from the basement.

Ethnic Macedonians have no schools where they could learn their mother tongue and there is immense pressure from Greek society to not speak Macedonian in public. It is characterized as an "uncivilized Slavic dialect” while only the Greek language is seen as being "civilized”.

Ethnic Macedonians are not granted access to the mass media and have very limited opportunities to express their problems as a minority in Greece. Our monthly magazine, Ta Moglena, has its distribution severely limited by the Greek police. It is viewed as anti-Greek simply because it advocates human rights for the Macedonian minority which is in direct contrast to the official Greek position.

Our Macedonian culture is officially forbidden as our Macedonian songs, until recently, were performed with no lyrics. Macedonians have begun to use lyrics over the past few years despite pressure from Greece. However, the Greek government has made a concerted effort to change Macedonian lyrics into Greek.

Macedonian children who were born in Greece and evacuated during the Civil War between 1946-1949 to the former socialist countries are forbidden to return to Greece because they are not Greek. The racist 1982 law allows only "Greeks by genus” to return to their homeland. The Macedonians were excluded from the process of repatriation. The Greek state is the only one in Europe which does not allow the repatriation of its citizens based solely on ethnicity.

We ask that the international community pressure Greece to finally grant its Macedonian minority human rights.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Father Nikodim Tsarknias
Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece

Agias Sofias 13, Aridea, Pellis Greece 58 400
Tel. +30-2384-023-271 Fax: +30-2384-021-778