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News 18 May 16

Bulgarian Racists Assault Iglesias Band Members

In an incident that has highlighted Bulgaria’s ongoing problem with hate crimes, band members say they were attacked because of their appearance on the eve of a concert in Sofia.

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
Photo: Enrique Iglesias Facebook Page

Musicians from the band of pop star Enrique Iglesias say they suffered a racist attack in Sofia on May 14.

Backing vocalist Celia Chavez and guitarist Sean Hurwitz said the incident took place in central Sofia late at night before Iglesias’s concert on May 14.

Chavez reported the assault on Facebook, explaining that her friend, bass player Joe Ayoub, was “tackled... by two skinheads and subjected to a random beating”.

When two other members of the band came to his aid, they were reportedly attacked, too.

“The attackers clearly targeted my friend because of his appearance - the two men went swiftly and specifically to him at the start of the attack,” the singer wrote.

The news outraged Bulgarian fans of Iglesias who sent their apologies on social networks to the musicians and expressed their anger with the authorities for failing to tackle the problem of racially based aggression.

“I am so sorry and ashamed this has happened to you here... Hate and racism are serious issues here... this is usually conveniently kicked under the carpet but the problems are glaringly obvious,” a Facebook user commented on Chavez’s page.

The musicians explained that they managed to escape the attackers and made it safely to their hotel.

On Tuesday, when the case gained publicity, Bulgarian police told BIRN that they had not started an investigation because the victims and their friends had not reported the incident.

Although racist violence is punishable as a hate crime under the Bulgarian penal code, rights groups complain that attacks are not adequately prosecuted and punished.

In a report published in February 2015, Amnesty International accused Bulgaria of failing to adequately investigate and prosecute hate crimes, which it said was “fueling fear, discrimination and ultimately violence”.

The latest year for which Bulgaria reported data on hate crimes to the OSCE was 2014, when 617 hate crimes were recorded by the police. Of that number, 114 cases resulted in court sentences.

"I do not want to walk the streets of Sofia — or any city that invites me in the name of music — in fear, or resentment, or anger,” Chavez said, recalling the moment when she and her band found out that their manager had been killed in the Islamist attack on the Bataclan hall in Paris in 2015.

But she and her colleagues stressed that the latest incident would not change their attitude to Bulgaria and their Bulgarian fans.

“ These things happen sometimes. They are senseless acts of violence and they unfortunately occur worldwide. They do not reflect my thoughts about Bulgaria in any way,” Sean Herwitz wrote on his website.

“The concert was awesome! It was a sold out show and the fans were amazing!I look forward to returning there soon,” he added.

 

 

 

 

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