By Bill Nicholov, President, MHRMI
I shouldn't have to explain the idea of basic human rights to a Western diplomat or politician but, welcome to my world, where I have to defend the existence of my ethnic group and demand the end of a policy aimed at driving it into oblivion.
After inexplicably having to explain to Kati Csaba, Canada's anti-Macedonian ambassador to Macedonia, that forcibly changing a country and ethnic group's name, identity and history in order to appease its oppressors is the antithesis of human rights, I told her a human interest story, in the hopes that it would appeal to her, well, human side. It was about one of my kids' friends telling us that 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? No suggestions from Kati were forthcoming, mostly because she is perpetuating this hatred.
We're Macedonian, and 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. Kati, what would you tell your kids if you were in our position?
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.
But why? All to appease Greece, so it refrains from using its veto power against Macedonia's NATO and EU membership bids.
Rather than discussing the Canadian-assisted eradication of my ethnic group, Kati Csaba chose to inform me that Canada will now "proudly 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 divided among Serbia (now the independent Republic of Macedonia), Bulgaria, Greece and later, 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. You are spreading hatred against an entire ethnic group, and you are a disgrace to Canada's (former) reputation as a defender of human rights.
Bill Nicholov, President
Macedonian Human Rights Movement International