News 13 Nov 14

Triple Murder Highlights Macedonian Veterans’ Traumas

After a veteran of Macedonia’s 2001 conflict was accused of a triple murder, veterans’ associations said ex-servicemen are not given any help to deal with their war traumas.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
Monument in Skopje honouring soldiers who died in the 2001 conflict. Photo: Sinisa Jakov Marusic.

The issue of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder was raised again this week when Macedonian police detained a 40-year-old veteran from the southern town of Kavadarci on Tuesday on suspicion of killing his wife’s sister and both her parents in their family home.

According to initial media reports, the suspect committed the murder after his wife divorced him, using a gun that he legally owned.

The case is just the most recent in a series of violent incidents involving veterans. Last month media reported that an ex-serviceman also committed suicide in the town of Kumanovo.

Since the end of the conflict, at least 30 Macedonian veterans have committed suicide, while at least ten more have committed murders, representatives of the country’s war veterans’ associations have estimated.

“Unfortunately, a significant number of ‘defenders’ took their own lives or committed murders, whether due to psychological trauma or because they faced existential problems,” said Martin Najdov from one of the biggest such associations, the Board of Defenders, which brings together former and current members of the police and army.

“We have never received organised psychiatric help from the state, not even once,” Igor Petreski, the head of the Karpalak veterans’ organisation, told Utrinski Vesnik newspaper.

In 2001, a brief armed conflict erupted between ethnic Albanian rebels and the security forces that ended with the signing of the Ohrid peace accord. The accord granted greater rights to the Albanians who make one quarter of the country’s population.

Thirteen years after the conflict, psychotherapist Biljana Koprova said that some war veterans are still suffering from psychological trauma.

She said that they often experience flashbacks, depression, anxiety and low tolerance to stressful situations, as well as feelings of aggression and frustration.

“These people survived great traumas which, if left untreated, do not simply fade away over time. After spending time on the battlefield, these people often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and that is why they must attend psychological counselling afterwards, which unfortunately does not happen [in Macedonia],” Koprova told BIRN.

Veterans say that part of the reason why their problems are ignored by the state is the lack of legislation setting out the rights of war veterans.

In 2012 Macedonia’s ruling VMRO DPMNE party advocated a controversial law on the rights of members of the Macedonian armed forces who fought in the 2001 armed conflict, and their families.

But the law was never passed because it angered ethnic Albanian parties, which either wanted the same rights extended to former Albanian guerrilla fighters and their families, or the bill dropped altogether.

Macedonia has 15 active war veterans’ associations with around 30,000 estimated members.

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