Giving a voice to Macedonian minorities

Giving a voice to Macedonian minorities

By Gordan Jordanov, UMD Macedonia Director

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The UDHR is a milestone document, which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status. Available in more than 500 languages, it is the most translated document in the world.

Still, 74 years later, various peoples around the world continue to be denied their basic and fundamental human rights outlined in the UDHR. Although the Declaration is not legally binding, its principles and rights outlined in other international instruments such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are legally binding, highlighting its importance to the protection of all people’s rights and freedoms.

On International Human Rights Day, UMD acknowledges and gives voice to the Macedonian minorities, especially to those in Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria in their ongoing fight for their fundamental human rights.

Macedonian minorities’ existence continues to be denied, being eradicated in the national census in Bulgaria, Macedonian organizations and parties are denied the right to be legally registered, preventing them from having a representative in government and on the political platform more broadly. Since the fall of the communist regime in Bulgaria, Macedonians are the object of unsanctioned and even encouraged hate speech, labeled as national traitors and enemies, as well as the object of organized discrimination and assimilation, and intimidation campaigns. Even though on numerous occasions Macedonians across Bulgaria have submitted legal cases to the European Court of Human Rights and have won, Bulgaria has failed to secure the rights of people living within its own border. Macedonians from Bulgaria, state that they will continue to fight for their human rights with all legal means and in all institutions available to them in the Council of Europe and the European Union.

“Racial discrimination” is defined by the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on a equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life,” is experienced daily by Macedonians in Greece. They are not recognized as a national and linguistic minority and they do not enjoy any protection as such, instead, they are highly discriminated against in many of their normal activities that are legally permitted to all other citizens in Greece. For example, Macedonians in Greece do not enjoy the right to assembly, although this right is guaranteed by the country’s Constitution. Several cultural Macedonian associations were closed by a Court decision or never managed to get permission to operate on the basis of promoting Macedonian culture and identity. Macedonians cannot express their ethnic and linguistic diversity without being attacked publicly and slandered by the public as “enemies of the state and the Greek nation.” All of their fundamental human rights and freedoms are denied with a mere excuse that “a Macedonian nation and language do not exist.” Without the right to assembly, schools that preserve and promote the Macedonian language cannot operate, and Macedonians cannot gather in social circles where they can freely express their traditional culture and customs. The state, by its authorities, places deliberate and significant impediments denying Macedonians their rights and freedoms.

Macedonians in Albania however to some extent do enjoy their fundamental human rights and freedoms. For example, they are only recognised in Mala Prespa, and have formed a political party representing their rights and interests in the Albanian parliament. The Macedonian language is also officially taught at the University of Korca and Macedonian cultural centers have successfully been opened in Albania. However, the Albanian government still needs to work on the integration process of the Macedonian communities, especially in Golo Brdo, building infrastructure and high living standards as well as incorporating the Macedonian minority groups in the decision-making of the country.

Human Rights Day has been celebrated by the UN and the world’s leading countries for decades, highlighting the importance of all people’s human rights and freedoms. Despite this, however, Macedonians together with other minority groups around the world are still fighting for their fundamental rights outlined in the UDHR, such as the right to self-determination. They are silenced from practicing Macedonian traditions, culture, language, etc., in fear of hate and discrimination at the hands of the countries in which they reside.

UMD calls for recognition and respect of all human rights outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in all countries, especially in Albania, Greece, and Bulgaria. Like other people, Macedonians must be able to freely enjoy their right to self-determination, to freely speak Macedonian, and practice their culture, tradition, and religion.

Macedonians represent honest and good citizens in the countries in which they live and progress. It is time the world sees and respects Macedonians’ rights as well.