On a recent trip to Northern Greece I found that everywhere I went people spoke and understood the Macedonian language. There are estimates of 500,000 to 1,000,000 people of Macedonian ancestry left in northern Greece today. Yet ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece are not allowed to have their own cultural organizations, worship in their own churches or print newspapers in the Macedonian language .
American Hellenic Institute
1220 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dear Mr. Rossides:
Your recent letter to President George Bush stating that the American Hellenic Institute has problems with America’s decision to formally recognize the Republic of Macedonia under its Constitutional name belies, once again, the real issue behind Greece’s response over the name issue with the Republic of Macedonia — the basic lack of human rights for Greece’s minorities.
After Southern geographic Macedonia fell under Greek jurisdiction for the first time in history in the early part of the 20th century, there began a systematic cleansing of the indigenous Macedonian populace. Their cleansing has been so brutal and the forced assimilation so complete that many, if not most, remaining ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece have been afraid to speak up. It is time the Greek government acknowledged this dark period in its history and began to make reparations to the Macedonian minority.
On a recent trip to Northern Greece I found that everywhere I went people spoke and understood the Macedonian language. There are estimates of 500,000 to 1,000,000 people of Macedonian ancestry left in northern Greece today. Yet ethnic Macedonians in northern Greece are not allowed to have their own cultural organizations, worship in their own churches or print newspapers in the Macedonian language — rights granted to minorities in all other European Union member states.
According to many reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Greek Helsinki Monitor and other organizations, Greece’s record on human rights record is abysmal.
Now that an independent and democratic Macedonia exists, Greece fears for its borders and claims sole ownership of the name “Macedonia” not because of territorial ambitions from a Macedonia with virtually no army but because its own citizens of Macedonian heritage will want the most basic of human rights — self-identification.
Most of the world, including the United States, refers to The Republic of Macedonia by its constitutional name. The Republic of Macedonia has the right to self-identification according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Under the rule of international law, there is no precedent granting any government the power or authority to dictate to an independent sovereign nation what that nation’s name is or should be.
It is the ethnocentric policies of Greece that are the true source of any problems. If Greece behaved like a democracy by affording its Macedonian minority full human rights the paranoia over any so-called threat to its borders would disappear.