The Macedonian Tendency: Greek Helsinki Monitor on Persecution

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Greek Helsinki Monitor on Persecution

This is the full report by the Greek Helsinki Monitor on Macedonians in Greece. Read it an weep. If you don't trust me, download the report yourself.

Greece: Denial of minorities and persecution of minority rights activists
(download the Report)
April 3, 2006

Human rights defenders, who advocate for minority rights in Greece, a country that persistently refuses to recognize the existence of national minorities in their territory, face hostility and persecution, and are treated as threats to public order and national security.

In the course of one year (May 2004 – April 2005), the three key international bodies of experts on minority rights, the UN’s CESCR and HRC and the CoE’s ECRI, have published comprehensive criticism of Greece’s persistent refusal to respect its international commitments by even just acknowledging the existence of two national minorities, to whom belong all those Greek citizens who identify themselves as Macedonians or Turks. The relevant texts are appended to this statement. Characteristically, ECRI noted that:

“Even today, persons wishing to express their Macedonian, Turkish or other identity incur the hostility of the population. They are targets of prejudices and stereotypes, and sometimes face discrimination, especially in the labour market.”

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), in turn, urged Greece:

“to reconsider its position with regard to the recognition of other ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities which may exist within its territory, in accordance with recognized international standards, and invite[d] it to ratify the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995).”

Finally, the UN Human Rights Committee urged Greece to

“review its practice in light of Article 27 of the Covenant… [and] noted with concern the apparent unwillingness of the government to allow any private groups or associations to use associational names that include the appellation Turk or Macedonian.”

The Greek state’s response was to confirm the ban of Macedonian and Turkish associations, and, at the same time, harass or attack human rights defenders who disseminate these texts and advocate minority rights.

The “Home of Macedonian Civilization” continues to be denied registration (most recent ruling in 2003 with appeal hearings only in September 2005 and decision pending through March 2006) by the courts sixteen years after it first applied and eight years after Greece was convicted by the ECHR for having refused the registration of that association.

In 2005, the Supreme Court refused the registration of the “Turkish Women Cultural Association of the Rodopi Prefecture.” It also dissolved the “Turkish Union of Xanthi,” operating legally since the 1930s.

The rulings are exemplary in showing why the Greek state considers the acknowledgment and the advocacy of the existence of such minorities a threat to public order and national security as well as promotion of foreign state interests. In the “Turkish Union of Xanthi” case it is stated (emphasis added):

“The association’s aim is illegal and contrary to Greek public order, since it is in contradiction with the international treaties signed in Lausanne, as it is attempted openly to present that in Greece (the area of Western Thrace) there is a national Turkish minority, while according to these treaties only the presence of a religious Muslim minority is recognized in the area. The reference to the Turkish identity does not reflect some remote Turkish origin but a current quality as members of a Turkish minority that would exist in Greece and would pursue the promotion within the Greek state of state interests of a foreign state and specifically Turkey. The association with its actions (…) gravely endangers Greek public order and national security (…) and raises a non-existent minority problem of ‘Turks’”

In the “Home of Macedonian Civilization” case it is stated (emphasis added):

‘The formulation of the associations’ articles is unclear and can cause confusion regarding its real goal… The use of the term ‘Macedonian culture’ intensifies this confusion by connecting it with a non-existent language, described as ‘makedonski’… The recognition of such an organization contains a direct danger to public order and provides an opportunity for exploitation by foreign agents, who have tried from time to time, unsuccessfully, to fabricate a historically non-existent ‘Macedonian nation’… For all the reasons mentioned above, we reject the application.’

It is no wonder then that human rights defenders advocating for the rights of the two minorities are considered themselves dangerous to public order and foreign agents, and every effort is deployed to keep them out of Greece, muzzle them and/or attack them.

On 4 August 2005, Gjorgi Plukovski, of the Canada-based “Macedonian Human Rights Movement International,” was denied entry into Greece by way of the Republic of Macedonia because he “is considered to be a threat to public order, internal security, public health or the international relations of one or more of the Member States of the European Union” (Document available at A month earlier, on 6 July, Mr. Plukovski had entered Greece by way of Italy and remained until 24 July. Hence he is not on the alert list for the purpose of refusing entry in all Schengen countries: only Greece considers him a threat to public order and internal security. Mr. Plukovski is a Canadian citizen of Macedonian descent born in Greece in 1938 and becoming a child political refugee in 1948.

On 14 August 2005, Thessaloniki’s main daily “Makedonia” censored “out of principle” the regular Sunday column of writer and human rights activist Thanasis Triaridis that was to have an article with the title “A short note on a banned language,” summarizing the history and the reasons for the prohibition on speaking Macedonian in Greece, as well as Greece’s refusal to recognize national minorities, such as the Macedonian and Turkish ones.

In early October 2005, Erol Kasifoglu, President of the Solidarity Association of Western Thrace (BTTDD), was not allowed to enter Greece at the Greek-Turkish border. Kasifoglu, who was stripped of his Greek citizenship in 1987, on the basis of the now abolished Article 19 of the Greek Citizenship Code, had previously entered Greece many times with a Schengen visa. This time, Kasifoglu was issued a document that states that he is a threat to public order and national security. In the past, Selahattin Yύldύz, Tahsin Salihoglu, Halit Eren, Taner Mustafaoglu and Burhaneddin Hakgόder, then directors of BTTDD, had also been refused enthry in Greece with the same justification.

On 13 October 2005, Mr. Theo Alexandridis, GHM legal counsel, was held at a police station for four hours after having participated, along with other human rights activists, in various demonstrations against the expulsion of Roma children from their school, subsequent to pressure exerted by certain parents of non-Roma children in the “Psari” neighbourhood in Aspropyrgos, near Athens. Mr. Alexandridis had gone to the police station to lodge a complaint against the parents, responsible for violent acts during those demonstrations. Once he had filed the complaint, Mr. Alexandridis was not allowed to leave or meet with his colleagues at GHM. He was subsequently told that he was under arrest. Two hours later, he was told that he would not be judged in the framework of read-handed procedure and was released. The president of the Pupils’ Parents Association lodged a complaint against Mr. Alexandridis for “libel” and “defamation”. Police did not send the case file to the court until January 2006 and through March 2006 the case has not been assigned to an investigator.

On January 20, 2006, the Head of the Patras Appeals Prosecutor’s Office, Mr. Anastassios Kanellopoulos, said in a radio interview that “perpetrators, instigators and accomplices” of Roma “will be called to take the stand”, specifically including as potential targets representatives of the Greek Helsinki Monitor. This declaration was made in reference to the case of Roma families living in the Makrigianni area, city of Patras (Cultural Capital of Europe 2006), who were threatened of being forcibly expelled, despite a decision of the Magistrate’s Court of Patras (312/2005). GHM had offered legal aid to these families.

Yet, Mr. Anastassios Kanellopoulos ordered on that day the launching of an urgent preliminary investigation into allegations that the Roma of Makrigianni threw litter in a river, following many protests by local residents against this situation. While explaining the various aspects of the judicial investigation, Mr. Kanellopoulos underlined that its objective was to identify the perpetrators and instigators of these acts, as well as their accomplices. When queried by a journalist, the Prosecutor stated that all Roma are crime perpetrators and also admitted that he would examine the role of GHM representatives, known for their struggle for the rights of the Roma. “If it is proved that they too have helped the Roma, then be assured that they will be called to the stand”, the Prosecutor noted.

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