UMD Marks World Refugee Day, Calls on Greece to Repeal Laws

On World Refugee Day, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) commemorates the 70th anniversary since the plight and mass exodus of thousands of Macedonian children, called “Deca Begalci,” that were forcefully expelled by Greek army forces during the Greek Civil War, which started in 1944 and lasted till 1949. UMD calls upon Greece to recognize the inhumane treatment of these Macedonians by demanding the repeal of the Amnesty Law enacted in 1982 that intends to repatriate only “Greeks by genus,” as well as the law enacted in 1985 designed to return confiscated properties only to “Greeks by genus.”

Since the annexation of Aegean Macedonia by Greece under the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, Macedonians in Greece who spoke out against their persecution have been exiled, imprisoned, harassed, neglected, silenced, discriminated against and have had their properties confiscated; all committed either by or with the acquiescence of the Greek Government and the Greek Orthodox Church.

During the Greek Civil War, 44,000 Macedonian children between the ages of two and fourteen were put on trains and sent off to Skopje, Belgrade, Budapest, Prague, Bucharest, and even to places further away like Moscow, Warsaw, and Tashkent. These children, now adults in their senior years, are scattered around the world and are denied the right to return to their homes in Greece. To make matters worse, these persecuted Macedonians are still denied compensation for property wrongfully taken from them and their families.

In 1982 and 1985, Greece’s parliament enacted laws designed to repatriate and return confiscated properties belonging to “Greeks by genus” who had left Greece during the Greek Civil War. In both laws, Macedonians were excluded. The passage of these laws was simply a part of the Greek Government’s systematic denial of the most basic human rights to its numerous ethnic minorities as part of its on-going, specious attempt to claim that Greece is an ethnically homogenous nation, despite evidence to the contrary from the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, Helsinki Watch and the United Nations. Macedonians in Greece are not allowed even core liberties such as (1) simply identifying themselves as Macedonian and being able to hold Macedonian names, (2) speaking or studying their own language, (3) expressing their religious affiliation including practicing in their language, (4) sharing their culture with their fellow citizens, (5) establishing cultural associations, and (6) petitioning the Greek government for the redress of their grievances and injuries.

On this United Nations World Refugee Day, UMD calls upon Greece to fully embrace democracy and repeal the Greek laws that discriminate against the Deca Begalci, to afford the Macedonian refugees of the Greek Civil War the right to repatriation and restitution for their confiscated property and resources – the very same rights currently limited only to “Greeks by genus.” UMD also requests that the Greek Government reverse its systematic denial of basic human rights to all ethnic and religious minorities within Greece.

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