Macedonia in English

Macedonia-related news and information in English

Twelve days of protest: Recap of May 12th to 16th — May 17, 2015

Twelve days of protest: Recap of May 12th to 16th

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Demonstrators holding hands. Photo by: Vanco Dzambaski

May 12th to 16th were marked with gatherings at the unblocked streets in front of the Government building, taking directions as fit. Each day protesters gathered at 18:00 o’clock near the Government, picked up their banners and whistles and peacefully marched first to the Court demanding release of the detained demonstrators, and ending at the Assembly with chants, speeches and plenums.

May 13th was one of the most massively attended protests of the second week of #протестирам, and in an embracing positive atmosphere, protesters demanded freedom for their fellow citizens in Idrizovo and resignation of the Government and Prime Minister. The three resignations from May 9th brought some closure, but the movement is determined that it will not be swayed until the Government steps down.

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Activist Marija Grubor in front of the Assembly. Photo by: Vanco Dzambaski

The second week was marked with brief and powerful speeches by citizens in front of the Assembly, speaking about their many reasons to take to the streets every day and not rest until this Government leaves.

On May 15th, the Court determined it will detain 3 more protesters, with the number amounting to 42 people temporary arrests for the May 5th protest, and a total of 15 demonstrators currently detained, one in house detainment and one that has fled. [Helsinki Committee Report] The outstandingly fast way of processing these cases and the unreasonable prison detainment make citizens even more upset with the institutions and the treatment of their citizens, which can factically be seen as political prisoners at this time.

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Poster for the protests on the 14th of May with pictures from the 13th.

The protests were under the messages: Goodbye Nikola, Resignation!, No justice, no peace!, Down with the dictatorship!

In this week, the Opposition published three more “bombs” (sets of wiretapped conversations among officials) about: The MOI purchasing a 600K EUR Mercedes for the PM in secret, Officials stating they can “start a war in no time” and aggressively demeaning minorities and lastly a confirmation that the Government has been negotiating and accepting proposals for changing the country’s name – a matter they have denied rigorously).

May 15h ended with a plenary in front of the Assembly building, and May 16th in eyes of the upcoming massive protest was a peaceful gathering in front of the Government with people doing banners and calling out their messages.

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Skopje’s statues start to protest as well.

The #протестирам movement will join the massive civil protests on May 17th at 14 o’clock, firstly gathering in front of the Court, to once again remind the institutions about the citizens they are keeping in prison, and then joining the march of the Student Plenum, will join the massive protests of Citizens of Macedonia in 13:55, symbolically five minutes before the protest.  #протестирам will continue to gather every day at 18h.

Video with a compilation of protests from the previous years, calling for the mass protest on the 17th, We’re coming.

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Anti-Governmental stencils appear on the walls in Skopje.

The large scale protest on the 17th (known as We’re coming, #доаѓаме), will gather thousands from the entire country, seeking the current Macedonian government to resign and take legal responsibility for an almost decade long abuse of power, which includes vote rigging, large scale corruption, curtailing freedom of speech and of the press. The Citizens of Macedonia organizing the protest is a coalition of NGOs and political parties, standing against the regime in Macedonia. Protests will also be organized by Macedonian diaspora in front of Macedonian Embassies in other country.

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An alternative flag of Macedonia made by the designer Bane: “Goodbye Nikola” #збогумникола
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Three Governmental Officials Submit Resignations in Macedonia — May 12, 2015

Three Governmental Officials Submit Resignations in Macedonia

A picture published online of a "Picture Album - Resignations 2015" with 3 filled in slots.
A picture published online of a “Picture Album – Resignations 2015” with 3 filled in slots.

Minister of Transport and Connections Mile Janakievski, Minister of Interior Gordana Jankulovska and Director of the Agency of Security and Counterintelligence Mijalkov submit resignations on the evening of May 12th.

sasomijalkov1Mijalkov’s statement says:

 “I want to emphasize being thankful to the confidence and for allowing me to be part of a team that brings progress to our country and defends national and state interests. You have my full support. In the interest of Macedonia, seeing that if I do this I will help in overcoming the political crisis, imposed by the opposition with its non-state behavior, and aware that truth and arguments are on our side and that that will only become more clear in the course of time, I want to inform that I am submitting a resignation from the position Director of the Agency for Security and Counterintelligence. With piety I thank all representatives of the security forces of the Republic of Macedonia, with who I worked for all this past period and to all other institutions for their engagement, dedication, courage and strength. They are our main support, our pride and Macedonia can count on them.

I continue to act according to my principles and convictions and I will always be here for Macedonia and its citizens”

mile_j_g_6Janakievski’s letter states:

Seeing the political situation in the Republic of Macedonia and all allegations towards me done with different sticked, edited, cut and created conversations which have not spared members of my family either, I submit my resignation from the position Minister of Transport and Connections.

Janakievski believes his resignation will contribute to stabilizing of the political situation in Macedonia and allow the county to walk towards EU and NATO.

gordana-jankulovskaJankulovska in her resination thanks the Prime minister for the confidence given to her to be part of the team to govern Macedonia. She also states that in these difficult days in which the country is in a deep political crisis she assesses it is time to resign, believing that the resignation will contribute to its overcoming.

The PM proposed two ministers to take the empty seats the following day.  Mitko Chavkov who is current Director of the Bureau for Public Safety  for Minister of Interior, and is stated by some to have coordinated the violent throw out of MPs and journalists from the National Assembly on 24th December 2013.
Vlado Misajlovski is to be appointed Minister of Transport and Communications is the Director of the Public Company for Public Roads, and also the brother of the owner of the pro-Governmental media Kurir.

Picture by Borjana Mojsovska
Picture by Borjana Mojsovska

Social networks became abuzz after the resignations, and speculations quickly started spreading about other official resignations, none confirmed. Some activists gathered in front of the Assembly in celebration of the resignations.

Statements by European Commission, United Nations and NATO officials on Macedonia — May 11, 2015

Statements by European Commission, United Nations and NATO officials on Macedonia

Below you can find the statements from European Commissioner Hahn, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg 

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Statement by Commissioner Hahn on the situation in Kumanovo, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Brussels, 09 May 2015

“I am deeply concerned at the unfolding situation in the Kumanovo region and possible injuries and loss of life. I urge the authorities and all political and community leaders to cooperate, to restore calm and fully investigate the events in an objective and transparent manner within the Law.

I urge all actors for utmost restraint. Any further escalation must be avoided, not the least in the interest of the overall stability in the country.”

STATEMENT/15/4955

[original statement]

UN: Statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the situation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

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The Secretary-General is alarmed by the recent violence in the city of Kumanovo in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and extends his condolences to the families of those killed and injured. He strongly supports the calls by the European Union and other members of the international community urging the state authorities and all political and community leaders to cooperate to restore calm and to fully investigate the events in an objective and transparent manner.

At this sensitive time, the Secretary-General calls on all actors to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from any rhetoric and/or actions that may escalate tensions further. He also encourages the country’s authorities to address the concerns voiced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on 17 March 2015 and to reaffirm their commitment to fundamental human rights and the rule of law by fostering an environment in which opposing views can be expressed freely.

[original statement]

Statement by the NATO Secretary General on the situation in Kumanovo, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹

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I am following the developments in Kumanovo with great concern. I express my sympathy to the families of those who were killed or injured.

It is important that all political and community leaders work together to restore calm and conduct a transparent investigation to establish what happened.

I urge everyone to exercise restraint and avoid any further escalation, in the interest of the country and the whole region.

  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

[original statement]

[video] United Citizens after shootings in Kumanovo – Macedonia —

[video] United Citizens after shootings in Kumanovo – Macedonia

A man in Kumanovo giving a statement for the press (25 Vesti) manages to get the attention of everyone standing around him, as well as the Internet community in Macedonia.

His calls for peace, solidarity, accountability and responsibility made this video widely shared as the good example of the unity in which Macedonian, Albanian, Turks, Roma, Bosnians, Serbs abd citizens from other nationalities are enduring the political, economic and social crisis in the country.
The video received 400000 views and 15000 shares on Facebook in 8 hours.

The video has subtitles in English.

Day 6: Discussions replace Protests at the Day of Mourning — May 10, 2015

Day 6: Discussions replace Protests at the Day of Mourning

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Activists listening to each others speeches and suggestions.

May 10th passed with absence of protests. Due to the tragic and disturbing events taking place in Kumanovo, the protests were put at hold for the day, and an outdoor plenary took their place.

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People listen to others speaking. Anyone can take the stand.

Citizens and activists gathered at the “Shell” stage in the City Park in Skopje, and spent two hours in discussion on how to continue after the developments and what the most appropriate reaction to them will be. The present decided to mark the second Day of mourning (May 11th) for the victims in Kumanovo by giving respect to the killed policemen in the clashes. The attendants will be wearing only black and white attire as a symbol of the mourning for the deceased Macedonian and Albanian policemen, and light candles and lay flowers for them. The gathering will take place in front of the Government’s building where people will be able to show their condolences with the citizens of Kumanovo and families of the deceased and injured.

The citizens and activists on today’s event rejected partisan labels and relations. They will convey a unique message uniting all, reaching out to political leaders in the country.

During the public assembly, there was little police presence noticeable, and the Governments building was still under serious police security.

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Some activists stayed after the plenary, to talk among themselves and socialize.

At dawn the day before, a police action against armed groups in Kumanovo (the second largest city in Macedonia, close to the northern border) distressed the citizens of the country, and the day was filled with pictures and videos of the burning houses, police shooting, helicopters passing, news on injured policemen and people evacuating from the city and country. Social media was sharing information on the action, until later in the afternoon when the Ministry of Interior announced conducting an anti-terrorist action, and early in the evening when it announced that the majority of terrorist (around 30) surrendered themselves to police. Shootings continued in the night, until today the action was ended. The Kumanovo actions left eight dead policemen, 14 dead “terrorists” and over 37 wounded officers, leaving the country in shock and grief.

Citizens though showed outstanding composure and rationality, calling against violence and manipulation in several TV polls and articles, the videos of which quickly went viral.

More info on Kumanovo: BalkanInsight // Macedonia Declares Mourning For Police Killed in Gunbattles

 

Photos by: Vanco Dzambaski [Full gallery here]

Activists engaging in discussion.
Activists engaging in discussion
How Low Can He Go? —

How Low Can He Go?

Article by Ivana Jordanovska, Activist from Kumanovo

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On the evening of May 8th, the police forces of Macedonia entered Divo Naselje, a part of the northern city of Kumanovo. According to official sources, the police had information on a terrorist group hiding in some of the houses in this ethnically-mixed part of town, planning to attack state institutions. Throughout the night and following day, grenades and gunshots were being heard, several objects were burning and civilians were being evacuated throughout the day.

As I drove into the city from the airport, there was one thought I couldn’t get rid of: Who would benefit from this crisis? To the best of my knowledge of local politics and international relations, this crisis, and especially the narrative being spread, made no sense. Having lived in the city for more than 19 years now, it made even less sense. The terrorists couldn’t have expected to gain support from the local Albanians. So, who?

“It’s almost nothing like 2001.” – said a friend who happens to be a former member of the military reserve forces taking part in the conflict. We all remember 2001 quite vividly. There was more than just gunpowder in the air. There was fear of the “other”, an open disgust of those speaking a different language and mistrust among most of the citizens. More and more Albanians were moving into the city, buying up land mostly in the southern outskirts of town, what is known as Divo Naselje.

Any self-respecting admirer of Agatha Christie knows the first rule in investigating a crime: Find the motive. To jump to the conclusion that it is an ethnic conflict is a gross misunderstanding of the political situation in the country, patronizing and simply dumb. However, there is one group that has a clear benefit from the developments of this crisis.

The Interior Ministry claims the group was planning an attack on state institutions. If a foreign terrorist group infiltrated the country and engaged in combat, the Government would have to declare a state of emergency. A state of emergency allows for special measures, such as introducing a curfew or revoking the right to protest. And, what’s been happening in Macedonia lately? Protests.

Since couple of months ago, the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE has been under a constant public pressure after the oppositional SDUM started publishing conversations illegally-recorded  by the secret police proving major frauds and misuses of power by leading political figures of VMRO-DPMNE. Parallel to this, the overall dissatisfaction has been manifesting itself through several series of protests on various issues. There have been protests against a controversial law on higher education, the new tax law, the secondary school reform, the unfair imprisonment of the journalist Kezarovski and as a form of public outrage for the death of young Tamara whose life-saving surgery was postponed by bureaucracy. Some of these groups of protesters have supported some of the other causes, but no issue has been as inflammatory as the recorded conversations between high government officials on the murder of Martin Neshkoski.

Martin was a 21-year old VMRO-DPMNE supporter who was beaten to death by a policeman, at the victory rally of his own party for the elections in 2011. Once his death was made public, thousands of young people took to the streets to protest against police brutality and demand the resignation of the Minister of Interior, Gordana Jankuloska. The Ministry claimed the policeman was off duty, so there was to be no political responsibility and Jankulovska is still a Minister. However, the published conversations show that Jankulovska hid the fact the policeman followed an verbal order by a person who’s not his supervisor, thus proving that the chain of command in the police is completely rigged in favor of powerful individuals.

Since May 5th, there have been massive protests every day, in front of institutions in the capital. The different groups have merged into a movement against the government. The police limits the movement of the protesters each following day, who are responding to the changing dynamics by becoming more and more organized. From day 1, provocateurs were identified and measures were taken, by the protesters, to keep the protests peaceful. However, the police has shown very little restraint and attempt to keep the protests peaceful. The culmination of the protests is scheduled for May 17th, when the united opposition is organizing a rally.

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And one might think this is just another conspiracy theory. What kind of a government would be prepared to induce violence to stay in power? The kind that has too much to lose. The misuse of power by the Prime Minister and his closest allies is sickening and omnipresent. They have rigged elections, taken bribes, wire-tapped more than 20.000 citizens, blackmailed businesses, created media content, imprisoned political opponents, exercised control over the judiciary and misused their power for their personal financial benefit. The day they give up power is the day they are liable for hundreds of lawsuits. And without the support of the current public prosecutor, nothing stands

Day 5: “We stand for peace and justice” —

Day 5: “We stand for peace and justice”

[Original from protestiram.info]

The fifth day of the protests, 9 May, began in front of government building, after the police prevented the protesters from accessing the Liberators of Skopje monument, where they intended to lay flowers to mark Victory Day. With a one-minute silence in honour of the people killed in Kumanovo, the protest was small and quiet, without clamour or use of sound props.

Credits: Ilona Olehlova

From there, the protesters moved toward the head office of the Delegation of the European Union. By shouting “Why are you silent, Europe?” the demonstrators were asking what the EU was undertaking in relation to the burial of the democracy in a candidate for membership country.

At the end of the protest part of the demonstrators visited the camp of the high school students who protest against the poor educational reforms.

The poster for the fifth day of anti-government protests says: I Protest Against those that throw the police and citizens in the fire! For justice and peace! See you at 18 o'clock! #протестирам #долувлада #заедно #SëBashku
The poster for the fifth day of anti-government protests says: I Protest Against those that throw the police and citizens in the fire! For justice and peace! See you at 18 o’clock! #протестирам #долувлада #заедно #SëBashku