Home Page
 
NEWS 20 May 16

Bulgarian Turkish Parties Clash at Commemoration

The annual commemoration of the resistance of Bulgarian Turks to assimilation by the former Communist regime turned into a battle between two rival ethnic Turkish parties. 

Mariya Cheresheva
BIRN
Sofia
MRF supporters at Thursday's rally. | Photo: MRF press office

Citizens of the mainly ethnic Turkish town of Djebel in southeast Bulgaria on May 19 commemorated the peaceful resistance of Bulgaria's Turks to Communist-era assimulation, in an atmosphere of sharp division.

Dzebel’s main square turned into a conflict zone between the largest ethnic Turkish party in Bulgaria, the Movements for Rights and Freedoms, MRF, and the newly formed DOST party, formed by MRF’s expelled leader, Lyutvi Mestan.

Thousands of MRF supporters booed Mestan when he joined the rally on Thursday.

Djebel’s mayor, Bahri Omer, who recently left the MRF to join DOST, was also met with boos and shouts of “Traitor” by some locals who symbolically turned their backs on him when he went on stage.

The MRF’s newly appointed leader, Mustafa Karadayi, and senior party representatives were cheered by a large group of supporters who waved slogans such as “Unity”, “Brotherhood” and “MRF”.

Thousands of people from all around Bulgaria and Turkey gather in Djebel every year to commemorate the so-called “Revival Process” in the 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of Bulgarian Turks were given the choice of forcible assimilatation by the former Communist regime, including loss of their old names, or forced to leave for Turkey.

On May 19, 1989, people in Djebel and other surrounding villages staged a massive peaceful protest, demanding their original names back.

The rally was brutally crushed by the police. Hundreds of people disappeared or were sent to labour camps. Large-scale deportations to Turkey, called “The Big Excursion” followed.

Formed after the fall of the regime in the early Nineties with the aim of protecting the rights of Bulgaria’s main minority, MRF has always has a monopoly on the commemorations of the Revival Process.

But this year it faced a surprise. After leaving its ranks earlier in 2016, Djebel mayor Bahri Omer banned the MRF from rallying in the town’s main square.

The ban was later overturned in the regional court in Kardjali and the MRF staged their event in the centre of Djebel, competing with DOST’s parallel rally.

The chaotic event symbolically marked the growing disarray in the politics of Bulgaria’s Turks.

Still not officially registered by a Bulgarian court, DOST, which means “friend” in Turkish, is accused of being Turkey’s "Trojan horse" in Bulgaria.

At the end of 2015, the MRF’s shadow leader, Ahmed Dogan, claimed that Mestan had acted as a “fifth column” for Turkey after the downing of the Russian fighter plane by the Turkish army in November 2015. Mestan took Turkey's side in the acrimonious dispute.

After he was expelled from the MRF on December 24, Mestan took refuge in the Turkish embassy in Sofia, saying he was afraid for his security.

Not surprisingly, the Turkish ambassador to Bulgaria, Suleyman Gokce, attended Thursday’s commemoration upon Mestan’s personal invitation.

The Mayor of Bursa in Turkey, Recep Altepe, also joined the rally, promising more investments in the region. He also called on everyone to be “dosts” - "friends”.

 

Talk about it!

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Headlines:

obscure-croatian-ngo-announces-ustasa-commander-plaque-06-26-2017
26 Jun 17

Far-Right Croatian NGO to Honour Ustasa Commander

A marginal far-right NGO announced it will put up a plaque honouring Jure Francetic, the commander of a Croatian World War II fascist Ustasa unit responsible for large-scale crimes against Serbs and Jews.

26 Jun 17

The Balkans Today: 26th June - 30th June 2017

26 Jun 17

Macedonia in Line for Busy Political Week

25 Jun 17

Albania Awaits General Elections Results

25 Jun 17

LIVE: Albanian General Elections 2017

Premium Selection

bosnia-s-ex-refugees-use-language-skills-in-call-centres-06-25-2017
26 Jun 17

Bosnia’s Ex-Refugees Use Language Skills in Call Centres

When German-speaking clients get through to a call centre, there is a good chance that the operator on the other end of the line is a Bosnian who found refuge in Germany during the 1992-5 war.

serbia-s-new-pm-likely-to-stay-in-vucic-s-shadow-06-26-2017
26 Jun 17

Serbia’s New PM Likely to Stay in Vucic’s Shadow

While Ana Brnabic awaits confirmation in parliament as Serbia’s new Prime Minister, experts say the real decisions will continue to be taken by her patron, President Aleksandar Vucic.

23 Jun 17

Albania Enjoys Calmest Ever Election Campaign

23 Jun 17

Romanian Top Filmmakers Fight for Reform

Latest News from the Balkans

26 Jun 17

Macedonia in Line for Busy Political Week

25 Jun 17

Albania Awaits General Elections Results