The Macedonian Tendency: 1995 US State Department Report on Human Rights in Greece

Monday, September 25, 2006

1995 US State Department Report on Human Rights in Greece

As I have said before, the US State Department is providing more information on the plight of ethnic Macedonians than either Radio Free Europe and Freedom House. "It's-a-low-down-dirty-rotten-shame."


The government and public opinion considered that minorities were defined exclusively in the Treaty of Lausanne and reacted negatively to any definition of "minorities" based on the mathematical standard of a group being referred to as a "minority" because it does not form a "majority" or a plurality of the total population.

The government did not recognize the Slavic dialect spoken by persons in the northwestern area of the country as "Macedonian," a language distinct from Bulgarian. Most speakers of the dialect referred to themselves as "natives." A small number of Slavic speakers insisted on the use of the term "Macedonian," a designation which generated strong opposition from the ethnic Greek population. These activists claimed that the government pursued a policy designed to discourage use of their language.

On October 20, the ECHR ordered the government to pay $42,294 (35,245 euros) to the Rainbow Party for violations of 2 ECHR articles: the right to a fair hearing and the right to freedom of assembly and association. The ruling faulted police for failing to take measures to prevent, or at least contain, violence during a 1995 demonstration instigated by the town council and local priests, during which Rainbow Party members were assaulted after the group hung a sign written in both Greek and the "Slavomacedonian dialect" outside party headquarters. The ECHR also held that the seven years and one month that authorities took to investigate the case was an excessive and unreasonable amount of time.

In May 2004 a former Greek Orthodox priest who became a priest of the Macedonian Orthodox Church was issued a three‑month prison sentence, later suspended, for holding religious services without a house of prayer permit. He appealed the sentence, but at year's end there was no decision.

The law permits the government to remove citizenship from persons who commit acts contrary to the interests of the country for the benefit of a foreign state. While the law applies to citizens regardless of ethnicity, it has been enforced in all but one case only against persons who identified themselves as members of the "Macedonian minority." The government did not reveal the number of such cases, but it was believed to be low, and there were no reports of new cases during the year. Dual citizens who lost their citizenship under this provision sometimes were prevented from entering the country on the passport of their second nationality. Activists charged that several expatriate "Slavo-Macedonians" whose names appeared on a "black list" were barred from entering the country.

A number of citizens identified themselves as Turks, Pomaks, Vlachs, Roma, Arvanites (Orthodox Christians who speak a dialect of Albanian), or "Macedonians" or "Slavomacedonians." While some members of these groups sought to be identified as "minorities," or "linguistic minorities," others did not consider that these identifications made them members of a "minority." The government formally recognized only the "Muslim minority" and did not officially acknowledge the existence of any indigenous ethnic groups, principally Slavophones, under the term "minority." The previous government, however, affirmed an individual right of self‑identification. Some individuals who defined themselves as members of a "minority" found it difficult to express their identity freely and maintain their culture. Use of the terms Tourkos and Tourkikos ("Turk" and "Turkish") is prohibited in titles of organizations, although individuals legally may call themselves Tourkos (see section 2.b.). To most Greeks the words Tourkos and Tourkikos connote Turkish identity or loyalties, and many objected to their use by Greek citizens of Turkish origin.

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