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The Waterfalls in Voden, Aegean Macedonia

The Waterfalls in Voden, Aegean Macedonia

 Introduction | The Rainbow Party (Vinozhito) |  Father Nikodim Tsarknias |  Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece
 Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity

Introduction

The following is a quote from the 1994 Report titled, "Denying Ethnic Identity-The Macedonians of Greece", 1 published by Human Rights Watch/Helsinki.

"Although ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece make up a large minority with their own language and culture, their internationally-recognized human rights and even their existence are vigorously denied by the Greek government. Free expression is restricted, several Macedonians have been prosecuted and convicted for the peaceful expression of their views. Moreover, ethnic Macedonians are discriminated against by the government's failure to permit the teaching of the Macedonian language. And ethnic Macedonians, particularly rights activists, are harassed by the government-followed and threatened by security forces-and subjected to economic and social pressures resulting from this harassment. All of these actions have led to a marked climate of fear in which a large number of ethnic Macedonians are reluctant to assert their Macedonian identity or to express their views openly."

"Ethnic Macedonian political refugees who fled northern Greece after the Greek Civil War of 1946-49, as well as their descendants who identify themselves as Macedonians, are denied permission to regain their citizenship, to resettle in, or even to visit northern Greece. By contrast, all of these are possible for political refugees who define themselves as Greeks. Greek courts have denied permission to establish a "Center for Macedonian Culture". Ultimately, the government is pursuing every avenue to deny the Macedonians of Greece their ethnic identity."

Recommendations by HRW/H to the Greek Government 2

  • Acknowledge the existence in Greece of an ethnic Macedonian minority with its own culture and language.
  • End free expression restrictions on ethnic Macedonians.
  • Permit ethnic Macedonian political refugees to return to Greece to regain their citizenship, to resettle and visit on the same basis as political refugees who identify themselves as Greek.
  • End the practice of prohibiting the teaching of the Macedonian language.
  • Permit ethnic Macedonians to establish cultural and other associations.
  • Carry out an impartial investigation into whether ethnic Macedonians are currently discriminated against in employment in the public sector; if that discrimination is found to exist, end it.
  • End harassment of ethnic Macedonians in general, and of Macedonian rights monitors in particular.
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The Rainbow Party (Vinozhito)

The Rainbow Party's Office in Lerin

Sign below the damaged window of Vinozhito/Rainbow's office in Lerin

Political Manifesto

  • Vinozhito is a political organisation of the Macedonian ethnic minority living within the boundaries of the Greek state, and engaged in the country's domestic political scene as an organisation of ethnic Macedonians.
  • Vinozhito draws its inspirations on the struggle for ethnic and social liberation, led by the Centralist IMRO, the Ilinden revolutionaries, the SNOF and NOF Antifascist forces - upholding the honour of those fighting for the Macedonian national movement.
  • The policy permitting the use of the terms Slavophones, bilinguals, Slavo-Macedonians, locals, Bulgars, etc. has the intention of obstructing the use of the reference" ethnic Macedonians", as it is not in concordance to official Greekstate policy which does not recognise the existence of a Macedonian nation and a Macedonian national minority in Greece.
  • Vinozhito is engaging all its sources to obtain all minority rights for ethnic Macedonians, as codified in international agreements and commitments Greece has taken upon itself. It is our strategic objective to secure recognition as equal citizens, as well as equal rights and opportunities as ethnic Macedonians in Greece and within the E.U.
For a complete analysis, please visit the official website of The Rainbow Party.

The following quotes, from the The Rainbow Party, reflect the desire of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece to achieve their human rights, despite the efforts by the Greek government.

  • "On Saturday 26th of July, 1997 a Macedonian festival was held in the village of Rakita/Olimpiada, Aegean Macedonia. This was the second such festival of traditional Macedonian dances in Aegean Macedonia. The first festival was held in August 1992 in the area of Voden/Edessa. After five years more than 20 Macedonian cultural associations participated at this manifestation. Despite extensive pressure by the local Greek police authorities to cancel this latest manifestation of Macedonian culture, the festival still went ahead as planned. The president of the organizing committee and the the president of the village council informed us that they had been interigated twice by the local authorities as to the ethnic Macedonian character of the festival in an attempt to stop the festival taking place."

  • (After the Deca Begalci Reunion in July '98) "Celebrations were not restricted to Meliti (Ovcharani). In other communities, such as Palaistra (Boreshnitsa), Ano Kalliniki (Gorno Kalenik), there were also Macedonian songs and festivities. In these areas, in the past, the residents were afraid to openly declare themselves as ethnic Macedonians and to participate in these cultural events. On the 26th and 27th of July celebrations were also held by ethnic Macedonians in the areas of Agios Panteleimon (Patele), and Ano Ydrousa (Gorno Kotori). On the 5th and 6th of August similar Macedonian cultural festivities took place in the village of Atrapos (Karpeshina). It was nice to see that more and more younger people were participating in these cultural events and celebrating their Macedonian ethnic heritage."

The Rainbow Party Trial

The Greek government continues its attacks on the Rainbow Party. It's latest act, condemned internationally, is a court trial against four members of Vinozhito for "public use of their mother tongue." (See below for verdict) They were charged under Article 192 of the Greek Penal Code with "inciting violence" or "disturbing the peace" for hanging a sign in the party's office displaying the words "Lerinski Komitet," (Lerin Committee) in their native Macedonian language as well as in Greek.

  • "...in September 1995, the office that Rainbow opened in Florina (Lerin), with an inscription in both Greek and Macedonian, was attacked and sacked by a mob, led by the mayor of Florina; before the sacking, the prosecutor had ordered the removal of the inscription and had announced the indictment of Rainbow leaders for having incited division of the people throughthe use of the Macedonian language on their sign: no political party, nor any medium condemned the sacking of the party offices, which was on the contrary praised by extreme right nationalistic papers like Stohos and Chrysi Avghi, whose members reportedly took part in the sacking. In fact, the use of the bilingual inscription was condemned by all political parties..." 3
The trial was supposed to take place on October 14, 1997. The Greek Helsinki Monitor publicly denounced the Greek government's actions and gathered support for the Rainbow Party.

To view the press releases in full, Click here

Topic: Appeal for Urgent Action on the Forthcoming Outrageous Trial of a Macedonian Minority Party in Greece for Public Use of Their Mother Tongue

Press Release - October 1, 1997

Kostur, Aegean MacedoniaThe cooperating organizations, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece, appeal to the international community, to concerned individuals but especially to governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as to the media to publicly protest against the -outrageous for a democratic country- forthcoming trial of Vasilis Romas, Costas Tasopoulos, Petros Vasiliadis, and Pavlos Voskopoulos, in their capacity as leaders of "Rainbow" -the Macedonian minority party in Greece- for public use of their mother tongue. These protests may take the form of statements and/or letters to the Prime Minister of Greece and/or the Greek Embassies in the various countries. They also appeal to these institutions to send monitors to that trial, to be held on 14/10/1997, in Florina (Northern Greece). The International Helsinki Federation has decided to send a large, multinational monitoring team. Please send copies of such statements or letters to our organizations."



Trial Was Rescheduled to September 15th, 1998

The following is a quote from the Rainbow Party

"On October 14th, 1997, the trial was rescheduled by the courts and will now take place on September 15th, 1998. Rainbow had requested an expedient hearing, but the courts denied the request and moved the date from October 14th, 1997, to September 15th, 1998. The eleven month delay in trial would indicate that the courts are in no hurry to examine this case."


The Rainbow Party Has Been Acquitted

The court case was finally heard on September 15, 1998 and due to immense international pressure from NGO's such as the Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada, Greek Helsinki Monitor, and Amnesty International, the Rainbow Party has been acquitted! Click here for more information.

The following quote reflects the attitude of the Greek media to Macedonian human rights activists, in particular, the Rainbow Party.

  • "Although the cultural expression of the ethnic Macedonian minority is not tolerated, the Macedonian minority party Rainbow inaugurated its Florina (Lerin) office on September 6, with a sign in both Greek and Macedonian. This action was characterized by 'an invasion of Slavs in Florina' (Adesmeftos Typos 7/9, p.7); 'an unprecedented provocation of the agents of Skopje' (Eleftheros Typos 10/9, last page); an action...'of teleguided provocateurs of Gligorov's irredentist regime in Florina' (Eleftheros Typos 13/9, p.4); 'a provocation of the well-known pro-Skopjan, anti-Greek small band' (Apogevmatini 10/9,p.15); 'unprecedented preaching of hatred against Greeks from the pro-Skopjans who admit that they made a party seeking separatism.' (Stohos, 13/9, p.1)" 4
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Father Nikodim Tsarknias

Father Nikodim TsarkniasFather Nikodim Tsarknias is a monk of the Orthodox Christian faith. He is a citizen of the Republic of Greece and is a member of the ethnic Macedonian minority of that country. He was an ordered member of the Greek Orthodox Church (the only church legal in Greece) from 1973 until 1991. Father Tsarknias served as a personal secretary to the Florina (Lerin) diocese's bishop, Augustine. Father Tsarknias opposed bishop Augustin's attempt to eradicate the Macedonian religious customs, which have been suppressed by the Greek government since it annexed part of Macedonia (Aegean Macedonia) in 1913.

After openly declaring his ethnic Macedonian identity in 1991, and having communicated with parishioners in the Macedonian language, he was dismissed from his ecclesiastical post in the diocese of Florina (Lerin). He assumed the same post in Edessa (Voden) but was subsequently dismissed there also. On March 11, 1992, he was expelled from the Greek Orthodox Church altogether. Because the Macedonian Orthodox Church is not recognized by the this church, or the Greek government, Father Tsarknias became an ordered member of the Macedonian Orthodox Church in the Republic of Macedonia. Although he has no church in which to carry out religious services, Father Tsarknis continues to provide for the religious needs of his parishioners in their homes, at their call.

He has been continually harassed by Greek government officials in an attempt to stop his activities. He is under constant observation by the Greek secret police, the K.I.P. He has been subpoenaed over twenty times to answer the charge of "falsely impersonating a priest". Several human rights organizations and international observers have attended the trials of Father Tsarknias.

  • "On May 10, 1994 Amnesty International wrote to the Greek government expressing concern for the Archimandrite and his sister Maria who on May 4 were beaten by Greek border guardswhen crossing the border check point at Nikki (Negochani) between the towns of Bitola in the Republic of Macedonia and Florina (Lerin) in Greece (Aegean Macedonia)."

    "Amnesty International stated 'Archimandrite Tsarknias was arrested and sent to the Regional Office of the Department of Defence in Florina (Lerin) for further interrogation. Hecollapsed there and was transferred to the General Hospital of Florina for medical treatment. It is not clear on what charges he was arrested; however the charges were later dropped and he wasreleased.'"

    "Amnesty International stated that it believed that the human rights of the Archimandrite and his sister had 'been violated by the Greek authorities purely because of their non-violent activities on behalf of the Macedonian minority in Greece.'"

    "Harassment of the Archimandrite continues. On May 11 he was again unable to leave Greece to visit Canada and was told that his safe passage across the Greek border could not be assured. On June 18 he was due to appear in court at Edessa (Voden) on charges of misrepresenting religious authority but the trial was postponed due to a lawyer's strike."

    "Outside the courtside the Archimandrite and his sister Stoyanka were physically assaulted by Greek police and taken to the General Hospital where medical staff verbally abused them anda male nurse attempted to choke him." 3

Although his life has been threatened on several occasions and he must constantly defend himself in court, Father Tsarknias continues to fight for the religious, cultural, and linguistic rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece.

To this day, the Greek government continues its policy of trying to eradicate anything Macedonian. The 300 year old cemetary at St. George's church in the village of Gorno Pozharsko (Greek name - Ano Loutraki) was destroyed in May, 1998. The old Macedonian church has been left in ruins while a new Greek church was built on the site of the old cemetary. The following picture shows the demolished Macedonian tombstones beside the new Greek church.

Grave desecration

Click here for more pictures (Courtesy of Father Nikodim Tsarknias)

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Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Greece

Kavala, Aegean MacedoniaHristos Sideropoulos and Anastasios Boulis are ethnic Macedonian human rights activists living in northern Greece (Aegean Macedonia). They have attempted to bring attention to the plight of the ethnic Macedonians in Greece by establishing this organization. They have met with numerous international organizations since 1989 including the European Parliament, European Union, the CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe), Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, the U.S. Department of State, among many others. These meetings are a turning point inthe struggle for human rights for the Macedonians of Greece. By achieving worldwide recognition, the Greek government can no longer hide its record of human rights abuses against its minorities. (including Macedonians, Turks, Albanians, Vlachs, Roma, Pomaks, Pontians, Arvanites, etc.)

Sideropoulos and Boulis, among other Macedonian human rights activists, have been threatened, fined, and charged by the Greek authorities for openly expressing their Macedonian identity. On August 11, 1992 both were charged by the Public Prosecutor of the Criminal Courts in Athens, based on Articles 245, 320, and 321 of the Greek Criminal Act. The charges were based on an interview by the weekly magazine "ENA" published on March 11, 1992.

In the interview, Sideropoulos stated:
"I have a national awareness of a Macedonian with a Greek citizenship and with all rights and obligations of a Greek citizen. But with one difference: I belong to an ethnic minority which isn't recognized by my state, as it was done with the Muslims (Turks) from Thrace."

Boulis stated: "I am not Greek, I am Macedonian."

For these statements, they were charged with the following:

  1. Spreading, through the media, intentionally false information which might create unrest and fear among the citizens, might affect the public security or harm the international relations of the country.
  2. Publicly caused and encouraged conflict among the citizens.

The trial, in April 1993, lasted for four hours and ended with the conviction of both activists. They were each sentenced to five months in prison and a fine of 100,000 drachmas (US $500). The case was immediately appealed and therefore the defendants were not jailed. Because of pressure from several international human rights groups, the conviction was eventually overturned on January 28, 1994.

Anastasios Boulis, in particular, has received numerous death threats for his human rights activities. The 1995 U.S. Department of State Report on Greece noted:

  • "In June, unknown persons fired shots at Anastasios Boulis, a Macedonian activist who was a candidate for the European Parliament. Boulis charged that, although local police knew who the perpetrators were, they never investigated. The government claimed a police investigation produced no corroborating evidence or witnesses."

Below is a picture of a death threat written on a wall located near his property in Lerin.
Translation: Death to Anastassios Bulev

Death Threat Against Anastassios Boulis

Despite the terrorist activities of the Greek government and public, the ethnic Macedonians are increasingly reaching out for the human rights that have eluded them for so long.

European Court Trial Against Greece

Macedonians win court case against Greece, for more information click here

Hristo Sideropoulos, along with several other founders of the Macedonian Cultural Centre in Lerin, have initiated a court case against the Greek government that took place at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Tuesday, March 24, 1998 at 3:00pm. A decision was reached on July 10, 1998.

The Macedonians have been struggling to open this cultural centre since 1990, but the Greek government has done everything in its power to prevent this. According to the European Convention Article 11:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for his interests."

The Document of the Copenhagen meeting of the CSCE-HD Section 4 Article 32 (6) states:

"Persons belonging to national minorities have the right to establish and maintain organizations or associations within their country and to participate in international non-governmental organizations."

Instead of abiding by these international human rights conventions, Greece illegally denies the Macedonians the right to establish the Macedonian Cultural Centre.

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Macedonian Movement For Balkan Prosperity

The Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity (MMBP) was formed in 1989 in Subotsko (Greek name - Aridea), Aegean Macedonia. The following are some of the organization's objectives:

  • Respecting of the essential human rights for Macedonians living here (Greece) pursuant to laws and the Constitution of the Greek state, Principles and Charter of the CSCE, EEC, Paris, and Helsinki Declarations relating to human rights.
  • Condemnation and change of the unjustified racial and discriminatory politics of the Greek state to disadvantage theMacedonians living here and to undertake measures for theelimination of any consequences.
  • Closer relations between the Macedonians living in Greece and the Macedonians living abroad.
  • Respecting of principles for non-violation of borders, respecting of the national, religious, language, cultural, and social rights of the minorities living in Greece.
  • Ethnic equality for the Macedonians in Greece, including the right to education in the Macedonian language.
  • A change in Greek law for the return of political refugees/emigrants, which currently allows only those of "Greek origin" to return.
  • An end to employment discrimination.
The MMBP, with the help of the Rainbow Party, registered a political party and took part in the 1994 elections for the European Parliament. This represented the first time that the ethnic Macedonians living in Greece had a voice in Greek elections. The MMBP registered 23 ethnic Macedonian candidates to the electoral officials in Greece. Not surprisingly, the Greek government took all necessary steps in oder to hinder this party. The following is a quote from the U.S. Department of State.

  • "The Supreme Court invalidated the list of Rainbow Coalition candidates but then reversed its decision two weeks before the election. Rainbow candidates had little time to campaign officially, and were not allowed to take part in government-sponsored television and radio programs whichincluded all other candidates. In addition, some polling stations did not receive lists needed for supporters to vote for Rainbow candidates." 5

  • "In the June 1994 Euroelections, a Rainbow list was presented by MMBP, in cooperation with the Rainbow group of the European Parliament (which included the minority and regionalist MEP's between 1989-1994). The list was immediately strongly attacked and slandered by the state news agency and some media; then the country's Supreme Court invalidated its candidacy, on the grounds that it had not declared it was not aiming at overthrowing the regime, a declaration not used since 1974. Following the outcry, the Rainbow and two other leftist lists which were initially excluded were reinstated. The Rainbow list was the only one not to get any air time on state television during the campaign and was not able to distribute ballots in most Southern Greek electoral districts; also, on election day, GHM and MRG-Greece received reliable information that the Rainbow ballot was not given to the voters in many Greater Athens voting places. Despite all those problems, Rainbow received 7,263 votes or 0.1% of the total electorate." 6

Despite the efforts of the Greek government and the climate of fear felt by the Macedonians in expressing their identity, the MMBP and Rainbow Party received a total of 7,263 votes. According to the members of this party, there were many voting irregularities including booths that never opened, voters lists that went missing the day of the election in areas withstrong support for the party, and "improperly marked" ballots being discounted. Independent observers believe that the real numbers should have been close to 40,000 votes.7

Kosta Gotsis, a member of the Macedonian Movement for Balkan Prosperity, told the Human Rights Watch/Helsinki fact-finding mission in 1994:

  • "We want all the rights of people who have their own identity and culture, according to CSCE declarations, we are entitled to these rights. One of the most important of these is the right to have our children educated in their mother tongue. It's very important to save the language. We don't care whether all the subjects are taught in Macedonian or there is just one hour a day of instruction in Macedonian-we don't want a utopia. If we are allowed to establish private schools that teach in Macedonian, that's okay. If the Greek government provides one or two hours of instruction in Macedonian, that's okay."

    "Right now we can't get permission to teach a class in Macedonian, because, according to the Greek government, the language doesn't exist. To set up a school teaching a foreign language, you need a license and a certificate. But since the government says the Macedonian language doesn't exist, they won't give anyone a license to teach it." 8

References

  1. Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece, HumanRights Watch/Helsinki, New York, 1994
  2. Ibid, p.61
  3. Greek Monitor of Human and Minority Rights-Volume 1, No.3, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece, 1995; p.44
  4. Hate Speech in the Balkans, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Athens,1998
  5. U.S. Department of State, Report on Greece, 1995
  6. Greek Monitor of Human and Minority Rights-Volume 1, No.3, Greek Helsinki Monitor and Minority Rights Group-Greece, 1995; p.44
  7. Interview with Pavle Voskopoulos, member of Vinozhito, May 6, 1995
  8. Denying Ethnic Identity: the Macedonians of Greece, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, New York, 1994; p.41

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