As the United Macedonian Diaspora’s (UMD) human rights advocacy work expanded in 2012 on behalf of human rights for the native Macedonian community in Aegean Macedonia (modern day Northern Greece), the UMD Greece Representative Eugenia Natsoulidou recently became the target of death threats, and has been publically slandered by a major Greek newspaper – Proto Thema. In response, legal action has been taken against the newspaper. UMD urges the Macedonian community in Greece to act in solidarity and beware of government-sponsored intimidation and pressure in the coming weeks/months.
Click HERE for the Proto Thema article. (in Greek)
Click HERE for the lawsuit document. (in Greek)
Click HERE to see the death threats on Facebook. (in Greek)
In late October 2012, Natsoulidou joined Greece’s Macedonian Orthodox religious community leader Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias for a visit to Canada and the United States. The team met with high-ranking U.S. government officials in Washington D.C. and Canadian Members of Parliament in Ottawa, and they attended UMD Canada’s Annual Gala in Toronto. By November 2012, all three events had received international media coverage.
On December 16th, Panagiotis Savvidis, a Greek journalist who has reported extensively on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party, and whose anti-Macedonian writings have been promoted on Stromfront.org, the largest neo-Nazi message board, wrote an article in Proto Thema, a major Sunday paper with nationwide distribution and a circulation of 150,000. The article was entitled: “Doctors, farmers… and Skopiani in the hands of the SDOE.”
“Skopian” is a euphemistic hate term applied to ethnic Macedonians by officials in the Golden Dawn and other mainstream Greek political parties, by right-wing Greek media, and by Greek Orthodox Church polemicists such as Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki (Solun). Ethnic Greek politicians in the Diaspora, such as Canadian MP Jim Karygiannis, have also used it. “SDOE” refers to the Greek government’s Financial and Economic Crime Unit.
The article featured photos (taken from the UMD website) that allegedly were used illegally under Greek law, depicting Natsoulidou at the podium during the UMD Canada Gala in Toronto on October 27, 2012. The text contained a wide variety of defamations and libels against Natsoulidou, and a group she belongs to called the Educative Cultural Movement of Edessa (Voden), which promotes Macedonian language, culture and folk traditions. These libels include: “… SDOE uncovers Skopian agents…”; “…Stop the black money for irredentist propaganda,…” and numerous false accusations of espionage, which are a potential incitement to violence.
On January 4th, a legal complaint was filed with the Public Prosecutor of Edessa (Voden), against Savvides, Proto Thema, and any other media who reprints the story. The charges relate to articles 362 and 363 of the Greek Penal Code, Article 2 of the Anti-Racism Law, Article 5 of the Greek Constitution, and other relevant Greek laws.
Around the time of the story in Proto Thema, a Facebook account user named “Kaloupis Dimitrios” posted the following on Natsoulidou’s wall: “I am telling you once more you little Slav… just one bullet in your forehead, when your time comes!” As it is unclear if the two incidents are related, a separate complaint has been filed with the Department of Electronic Crimes Unit of the Greek Police.
A third incident occurred on November 26, when an ethnic Greek journalist with a history of publically slandering Macedonians entered a dance hall in Edessa (Voden). Natsoulidou was attending Macedonian dance classes there, which had been organized without any approval by the local authorities. The journalist disrupted the class and started aggressively taking pictures of the people there without their permission. Another participant filed a police complaint at that time.
Natsoulidou stated: “Back in 1994, Human Rights Watch documented the “culture of fear” in northern Greece, but 20 years later, nothing has changed. Greek nationalists routinely use violence, threats, and character assassination against human rights activists. For example, the Greek media falsely accused Father Tsarknias of sexual crimes. This atmosphere of intimidation must be transformed into a culture of inter-ethnic tolerance and respect for freedom and human rights.”