WASHINGTON, D.C. – October 20, 2009 – The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) applauds the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (www.hsdfi.org) for its decision to screen the movie Next Year in Lerin this year. “We are honored that the Hot Springs Film Festival accepted our initiative to screen this movie. Although the film is almost ten years old, the continued discrimination and denial of the most basic human rights to Macedonians in Greece remains prevalent. This film festival is a great medium to present this documentary,” said UMD Chairman of the Board and Vice President Aleksandar Mitreski.
Next Year in Lerin is a film that portrays the story of Nikola and Vasil, ethnic Macedonians in their 60s who wish to visit their birthplace in Aegean Macedonia, now northern Greece. “The movie captures a basic desire to see one’s birthplace, a privilege that many of us take for granted, but which is impossible for thousands of Macedonians born in Greece. The only ‘crime’ these Greek citizens ever committed was being born ethnic Macedonian in a country that to this day does not recognize an ethnic Macedonian identity, nation, or language,” added Mitreski. UMD is honored that the director of the movie, Jill Daniels, was able to accept UMD’s sponsorship and attend the screening of the movie on October 24, 2009 in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
During the Greek Civil War more than 28,000 ethnic Macedonian children born in Greece were forcibly separated from their families by Greek authorities, and sent throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. They have never been allowed to return. These “Children Refugees,” as they are commonly known, are now seniors who wish to peacefully and apolitically return to the villages of their birth and ancestry. Year after year, Greek border authorities deny their requests.
“Greek xenophobia and discrimination have been very well-disguised for years, hidden behind a mask loudly proclaiming Greece as the birthplace of democracy. However, it should be noted that today, Greece is subject to more cases of human rights abuses at the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg than any other country in Europe,” said UMD Board Member Stojan Nikolov.
Earlier this year, a United Nations special envoy published a report recommending that Greece recognize ethnic minorities, including Macedonians. “Greece is a curious study in ethnic minority politics. The Greek Government recognizes only a “Muslim” minority. After nearly eliminating 450 years of Ottoman Turkish heritage, the Greek government retains the use of the Ottoman millet system, where people are grouped according to their religion. Such a system is incompatible with modern notions of democracy, personal identity, and the very European laws Greece is obligated to uphold,” continued Nikolov.
“Not only does Greece deny the most basic right of self-identification to the ethnic Macedonians who were born in Greece or currently reside there, but it does so to millions of Macedonians living worldwide by disputing the constitutional and rightful name of the Republic of Macedonia,” concluded Mitreski.
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