Recent political developments have affected the implementation of the reforms in the area of freedom of expression in Macedonia. The focus of government institutions on overcoming political obstacles to joining NATO and the EU had put most other reforms on the backburner. Continue reading →
An exhibition of photographs documenting the “Colorful Revolution” will take place at the College of Arts and Sciences of American University in Washington, DC, including a public discussion on November 29, 2016.
In the Kreeger Lobby
The High Stakes of Macedonia’s “Colorful Revolution”
Curated by Aneta Georgievska-Shine
November 12 – December 18, 2016
Several years ago, the government of the Republic of Macedonia embarked on a highly controversial and hugely expensive “urban renewal” of the capital city, Skopje. Most of this renewal consisted of large monuments of “historic figures” and new, quasi-classical facades over old buildings. This year, these monuments and buildings came under attack by various groups of citizens of this multi-ethnic country who rose together in street protests. Some of the protesters have been arrested and indicted for vandalism. The protests have continued unabated. This exhibition of photographs tells the story of the “Colorful Revolution.”
Politically, the enlargement of the European Union became a reality in 2004 when 10 new member states from central and southern Europe got entrance: Poland, Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia. It is the largest expansion done so far in terms of territory, states, population, etc. Since then the enlargement process becomes a magnifying glass (under the table) the issue of enlargement, especially when Romania and Bulgaria “got in” and the challenges that they took with them to the Union in recent years.
“The Great Lady” again, not only suffered a shock this year with the departure of Britain from the EU, but also proved to be possible the “impossible” scenario.
However, to become an EU member state is required to meet the obligations of membership with the required political and economic criteria. It also requires –the candidate country already has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities (political criterion). It requires the existence of a functioning market economy and capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union (economic criteria).
But what does this mean in practice ?! To achieve all these criteria will have to show that we have harmonized the national legislation with the EU, or more simply: our laws to comply with a 60.000 regulations / directives of the EU in various fields.
For example, the EU has a special Directive for chickens that should be produced as meat. It is determined how much lighting should be provided, how often they are entitled to have meals per day, how many times ventilation is on and if they are cold ‘to release heat. ” Furthermore, it was determined that it should not hear noise and not be under stress, and I quote part of the Directive: “The level of noise should be minimized. Ventilation fans and other equipment set, should be operationalized in a way that causes minimum noise.”
What fascinated me is that it is prescribed and liveweight per kilogram per meter square. So there must be no more than 39 kilograms – live chickens per square meter. Now, compared to the structure of state administration of 16 people, an average of 70 kilos of live weight per person housed in 16 squares work room without ventilation, and then does not surprise me that we are in this current situation. We humans can not fit into the normal operating conditions and ones require hens do not become stressed.
In that case, the person who will speak in an election campaign that their priority is EU membership either do not know the meaning of EU or really thinks that the conditions relate only to the chickens.
I wonder: Is it better to be a chicken in a EU country ?!
Protesters of the ‘Colorful Revolution’ in Macedonia claim they won’t be intimidated by the police announcement that they would press criminal charges against the bravest among them. According to experts, the charges are illegal from several aspects.
While the ‘Colorful Revolution’ protests take place in over 20 cities across Macedonia, they have been most frequent and most intensive in the capital Skopje and second biggest city Bitola.
The protests against impunity and corruption are non violent, but not passive, and include marches, performances, and throwing paint at objects that symbolize the impunity and corruption of the regime. Under the Macedonian law, such ‘painting’ is considered a misdemeanor, with a fine of 50 Euros (58 Dollars) in case a uniformed policemen or sanitary inspector catches the perpetrator in the act. Contrary to the law, the police had been calling people suspected of painting for questioning. Protest supporters consider this a form of intimidation, which in fact fueled their anger and increased their numbers.
On Friday, June 3, the police increased the pressure by announcing pressing criminal charges for 7 protesters in Skopje, and 26 in Bitola. This gives the situation much higher level of gravity – if the public prosecutors approve investigations under such charges, they may involve arrests, detention and possible prison sentences.
The pretext for these charges is “participation in a mob about to perform a criminal act” with the acts being “damaging cultural heritage objects.” The objects in question are the Ministry of Culture building and the Triumphal Arc in Skopje, and “property damage” in Bitola.
Единицата за насилен криминал при СВР Скопје до Основното јавно обвинителство Скопје поднесе кривични пријави против седум лица поради основан сомнеж дека учествувале во толпа што ќе изврши кривично дело. Кривични пријави се поднесени против лицата П.Б., М.З., И.М., С.С.К., А.Г. и Н.П. од Скопје и А.К. од Охрид.
The Violent Crimes Unit of Skopje of the Internal Affairs Sector in Skopje submitted criminal charges to the Basic Public Prosecutor against seven persons suspected of participation in a crowd about to commit a criminal act. Criminal charges are pressed against the persons P.B., M.Z. I.M., S.S.K, A.G., and N.P from Skopje, as well as A.K. from Ohrid.
In response to the announcements, the protesters in Skopje continued with the everyday activities of gathering at 6 pm in front of the office of Special Public Prosecutor, marching and painting, using a human-powered slingshot to reach distant objects such as the seat of the government. The banner of the day read “The Guilty Party is Pressing Charges,” referring to the impunity of the Macedonia’s rulers suspected of grave crimes.
After that, the protest went to the main square in Skopje, and proceeded to paint one of the biggest symbols of Nikola Gruevski’s regime – the statue of Alexander the Great, officially named “Equestrian Warrior.” For the first time, the protesters actually entered the fountain to provide up close dose of painting with toy water guns.
The protest ended in euphoria, as the most active users who had engaged in painting also lit flares. The last stop was the Parliament, which also got a dose of color.
Legal and other experts have questioned the conduct of the police on two grounds. According to the Article 97 of Macedonia’s Constitution, “The bodies of state administration in the fields of defence and the police are to be headed by civilians who have been civilians for at least three years before their election to these offices.” The current minister Mitko Čavkov has until recently served as high police official. According to human rights expert prof. Mirjana Najčevska, PhD, this makes his entire appointment and any of his commands illegal and unconstitutional.
Moreover, according to cultural policy expert, prof. Donka Bardžieva, PhD, the citizens could not know that the painted objects have been declared cultural heritage, because they had not been properly marked. According to Article 45 of the Law on Protection of Cultural Heritage, the Ministry of Culture was obliged by Law to properly mark them within 60 days of giving them such status. In addition, according to Article 174 of that law, the minister and her underlings are obliged to pay a fine of 810 to 240 euros (920 to 2761 dollars) for non compliance.
Another citizen of Macedonia suffered physical attack for expressing a dissenting political opinion this Sunday. The attack took place at Skopje Marathon, when three men assaulted activists holding a sign against impunity of former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who is under investigation for gross corruption.
Activist and analyst Ivana Јordanovska explained the incident via a Facebook post in English:
There hasn’t been a major incident, but it’s obvious that the regime considers even the use of force as a potential weapon. At the Skopje marathon today, a citizen holding the protest sign “Run as if you’re carrying the news of Gruevski’s imprisonment” has been attacked, for no other reason, by a group of alleged petty criminals. Citizens have recognized the black shirted guy as employed at a state-owned company, while it’s been claimed that his brother is employed at the private security company owned by Gruevski’s cousin. No official reaction by the police thus far, although the incident has been reported.
The Skopje Marathon is one of the biggest public events in the capital of Macedonia, with thousands participants. In recent years it is sponsored and branded by Wizz Air, a carrier receiving government subsidies to provide “cheap” flights from Skopje to different airports in Europe.
During the marathon, as elsewhere in the world, both participants and onlookers use the opportunity to express support for various causes – from wearing T-shirts with their companies logo, to kids with grandparents holding signs such as “Mommy run faster, I can’t wait to get my ice-cream after you finish,” to political messages. This year, many participants used the occasion to show their support for the Colorful Revolution by using stickers, t-shirts and banners.
Leftist movement “Solidarnost” (meaning “Solidarity”) published an article named “Who are the hooligans here?” stating that the attacked citizens were their activists. Within the article they presented photographic evidence from the incident, including several photos composed into an aimated gif.
“Solidarity” stated that other activists were also under pressure to remove the stickers or other means they used to express their opinion about current events. They concluded:
Денешниот инцидент подеднакво нѐ растревожува како и фактот дека транспарентот беше подготвен за минатогодишниот маратон и за жал тој сѐ уште е актуелен. Сепак, транспарентот со содржина „Трчај како да ја носиш веста дека Грујо е во затвор!“ ќе конкурира за најдобар натпис на маратонот. Доколку освои награда, средствата ќе бидат искористени за солидарно плаќање на казни и легални трошоци на активист(к)ите кои се соочуваат со проблеми поради нивното учество во протестите.
Ги потсетуваме сограѓаните и организаторите дека Скопскиот маратон е во чест на победата над фашизмот (9 мај 1945). Очигледно е дека и денес ние сѐ уште се бориме со внатрешниот фашизам кој користи сила во обезбедувањето едноумие, се заканува и тепа бидејќи не му се допаѓа нечиј транспарент. Повторуваме – нас ќотекот и притисокот нема да нѐ заплашат, туку само нѐ мотивираат да бидеме погласни и поистрајни во борбата. Ќе дадеме сѐ од себе што поскоро Груевски да оди во затвор, а потоа ќе трчаме наоколу да ја шириме добрата вест!
Смрт на фашизмот, слобода на народот!
Честит 9 мај!
Повторно ќе победиме!
This incident griefs us also due to the fact that this sign was made for last years’ marathon, and unfortunately it remains current today. Still, the sign with the content “Run as if you’re carrying the news of Gruevski’s imprisonment!” will be in the competion for the best sign of the marathon. If it wins an award, the funds will be donated for paying fines and legal fees for the activists that face legal problems due to their participation in the protests.
We remind our fellow citizens that the Skopje Marathon takes place in honor of victory over fascism (May 9, 1945). It is obvious that today we still struggle with domestic fascism which uses force in order to prevent pluralism of opinions, threatens and beats people when they don’t like a sing. We repeat, we shall not be intimidated by beatings and pressure, they provide additional motivation to be louder and more persistant in our fight. We will give all we can for Gruevski to go to jail as soon as possible, and then we shall run around spreading the good news!
For over two weeks, tens of thousands of Macedonian citizens from over a dozen cities participate in the “Colorful Revolution,” holding daily protest marches against state capture, demanding justice and democracy. They are eager to share their methodology through DIY tutorials in order to incite further citizen participation.
Step 1: Identity – Define who you are and what you stand for
The protests are organized ‘horizontally’ by a loose network of activists, including members of NGOs and civic initiatives, as well as some opposition parties – and any individual citizen who joins. The defused and decentralized approach based on a core set of values is essential both as means to attract more participants and as prevention measure from “hijacking” the credit for the protest by any particular stakeholder.
In essence, anyone adhering to these principles can claim being a part of the “Colorful Revolution.” In contrast to strict hierarchical discipline of the ruling parties requiring their supporters to repeat messages sent from the top, the protesters often experiment and disagree on various approaches, and resolve differences through open discussion. Making the common principles known is essential in defining the movement.
Why do I protest and what is the Colorful Revolution?
1. This is a struggle against the authoritarian and corrupt regime, personified by Nikola Gruevski.
2. This struggle is not peaceful [in the sense of passive], but it is strictly nonviolent.
3. No civil society group holds the monopoly over the struggle against the authoritarian regime.
Every citizen adhering with these principles is part of “I protest” (#протестирам) and the #ColorfulRevolution.
We call upon all who agree with these principles to come out and protest.
Reflecting the linguistic diversity of Macedonia, the protesters have been sharing information about the demands in various local languages, like Macedonian, Albanian (#protestoj!), Roma… and in English as well.
Which translation is more suitable: Multicolor Revolution, Multicolored Revolution or Colorful Revolution?
Step 2: DIY Means – share resources, knowledge and skills
Resource sharing started with t-shirt designs. The original shared design presented a stylized logo of the three most prominent Special Public Prosecutors: Lenče Risteska, Katica Janeva and Fatime Fetai. The people have been downloading the logo with the Macedonian acronym “СЈО” and taking it to print shops to make their own t-shirts, wearing them as a sign of support for the anti-corruption efforts of the prosecutors.
Soon, over a dozen designers started making logos and other visual materials, and posting them online in high resolution for public use. The web page sharena-revolucija.ie.mk collects these designs in one place, providing an easy to use digital resource. The people use them to makemorediverset-shirts, banners, stickers, variousbadges, flags…
All paraphernalia is self-financed by the protesters. The protests also lead to blossoming of cottage industry catering to their needs – entrepreneurial street vendors offering whistles or bottled water follow the marches. They quickly switch to selling umbrellas when it rains.
Then comes the protest activity in the streets. Violent acts that bring criminal liability are strictly forbidden. This includes any activity that can harm another person, especially police officers. People throwing stones or other dangerous objects, hitting others etc. are considered provocateurs. This is in line with the established tradition of nonviolence.
Activities such as throwing eggs or paint, writing graffiti at buildings or statues are considered misdemeanors under Macedonian law, with penalty of about 50 euros. To prevent any physical harm in case of accidents, protesters desiring to redecorate public buildings use balloons filled with paint and sand (for aerodynamics).
The following online tutorial explains how to make use simple household items to make spread some colorfulness with the simple ingredients of gloves, sand, paint, and balloons.
Дали сакате да се приклучите на #ШаренатаРеволуција? Многу е лесно, треба да следите само неколку чекори:
1. Земете што е можно поширока инка или направете сами
2. Вметнете го исечениот крај во еден празен балон
3. Наполнете го балонот до пола со обичен песок
4. Наполнете едно шишенце (полесно е ако е со цуцла) со боја
5. Закачете го балонот на шишенцето и наполнете го балонот со боја
6. Заврзете го балонот и исплакнете го со вода
7. Спремни сте за шарена револуција
Would you like to join the #ColorfulRevolution? It’s easy, just follow these few steps:
1. Take a wide funnel or make your own from a big syringe
2. Put the cut end into an empty baloon
3. Fill half of the balloon with sand
4. Fill a plastic bottle with paint (used to transport the paint from home to protest site)
5. Tie the balloon to the bottle noose to fill it with paint
6. Tie the balloon and rinse it with water
7. You are now ready for a colorful revolution.
Do it yourself (DIY) Colorful Revolution Instruction
There’s a loose consensus among the protesters to paint only objects that symbolize the power and the arrogance of the regime. For instance, the Triumphal Arch and the statue of clothed Prometheus, which bears resemblance to the works by Arno Breker symbolizing “The Party” as bringer of light and knowledge to the people.
What to do if you are summoned by the police – know your basic rights and resources for legal aid [in Albanian], including the tool-free number by Macedonian Helsinki Committee.
Step 3: Counter propaganda
At the public discourse level, the Colorful Revolution branding directly ridicules and deconstructs the government propaganda claims, parroted during the previous year that the protests are part of externally imposed “Colour Revolution” “scenario.”
To people acquainted with the history of Macedonian political scene, these claims sound a bit ironic. In 2006 it was actually the currently ruling party VMRO-DPMNE which modeled its whole election campaign on the “Color Revolution” theme. They tried to appear pro-Western and progressive, and to capitalize on the reputation of the 2004 Ukrainian Orange Revolution, they changed their “Rebirth in 100 steps” election campaign color scheme from red-and-black to orange. Their oligarch cronies even brought the singer-activist Ruslana to Macedonia as part of their ‘orange’ PR efforts.
Meanwhile, on the international scene, VMRO-DPMNE is trying to play both sides against the middle, sending different messages to different audiences. They simultaneously attempt to present themselves as supported (as European People’s Party member) and victimized by “the West,” while receiving declarative support from Russian state and its propaganda machine.
Civic activist Vladimir Hristovski from Veles received threats after the last protest in front of the Constitutional Court. After the protest, other activists also reported that the private security guards hired by the Court threatened them at the site.
“The day before yesterday I received two phone calls from a hidden number. They threatened me that unless I withdraw, things will become very bad. I told them I am not afraid, and they then said that they know that I am not afraid, but asked whether my mother is afraid. After that, in the morning I found a threatening message in front of my door,” the activist said.
On the peace of paper, a message written in a Veles dialect states that it’s a last warning before receiving a red card. Vladimir reported the case to Macedonian Helsinki Committee, and also went to the Veles police station and informed them about what happened, but they did not act as if they understood the seriousness of the situation. They told him that if there are new threats, he should report them by submitting evidence.
“How can I find out who threatens me and find evidence, isn’t that the job of the police?” – Hristovski asked.
He thinks that all this has happened because he held a speech at the protest in front of the Constitutional Court on February 29. He used to be a member of VMRO-DPMNE until a year ago, when he left the party and started criticizing the government.
The case with the young activist from Veles is not an isolated occurrence. Recently, social network users labeled the activist Vladimir Vangelov from Skopje as “Sorosoid bastard,” insinuating that he was one of the attackers who allegedly beat up Todor Petrov, and that in such a way “the Sorosoids create ethnic tensions.” Vangelov immediately reacted to this Facebook post:
“I reported the post to the Beko police station in the center of Skopje. I talked to inspectors from the Computer Crime Department. They told me that this does not fall under computer crime and there is no ground for the Ministry of Interior to press charges. One can also complain to a police station which has jurisdiction over the case,” Vangelov explained.
According to him, such attacks against civic activists, journalists and other citizens are planned from one center in order to incite incidents in situations of high tension. Publishing the false allegations about his involvement is also tendentious at a time when there’s no credible information about what actually happened in regard to the assault on Todor Petrov. The post leaves an impression of call for lynching a person who has been designated as “traitor, a freak, a mercenary” by the “black propaganda” of the government. Vangelov submitted a complaint to the Commission for Protection from Discrimination, also.
The activist Kiril Mickovski, who during the previous year was subject of constant harassment by pro-government media, said that after they would publish an article about him, he would be subjected to cyber-bullying. However he never reported those cases to the police. He said that the threats did not shake his resolve and that he will continue protesting, because they increased his determination to critique the bad policies.