The government that is responsible for serious deterioration of human rights and freedoms, intensive governmental control and pressure over media, diminishing of the freedom of speech, complete absence of political dialogue, no rule of law, corrupted and party controlled justice system, unseen levels of politicization of all institutions and administration, all accompanied with the rise of unemployment and poverty in the country.
President of Civil – Center for Freedom
The current rise of interethnic violence in the Republic of Macedonia is a clear consequence of wrong and destructive policies of the government. Prime Minister and leader of the nationalist party in power, VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski [ethnic Macedonian] and his coalition partner, the leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), Ali Ahmeti [ethnic Albanian], as well as several pro-governmental public figures have categorically denied any ties between the government and the ethnic violence on the streets; some of them even implied responsibility of foreign secret services, but certainly not of the government.
We need to make a certain distinction here. There is a difference between being an organizer and being responsible. The government does not have to be the actual and physical organizer of the ethnic hatred and violence in the country and yet be responsible for it. How? It is clear and simple. By creating it.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NATIONALIST HYSTERIA?
It is the nationalist doctrines and practices that are the main characteristics of the political parties in the country, especially of the ruling one. Indeed, it is the government that is responsible for serious deterioration of human rights and freedoms, intensive governmental control and pressure over media, diminishing of the freedom of speech, complete absence of political dialogue, no rule of law, corrupted and party controlled justice system, unseen levels of politicization of all institutions and administration, all accompanied with the rise of unemployment and poverty in the country.
In order to divert the societal reaction from these alarming problems, the ruling party imposed a rapid growth of populism and national-chauvinist rhetoric and action, and propped up nationalism and discrimination to institutional levels. The government is creating, openly sponsoring or silently supporting a palette of merely fascistic projects and activities, ranging from the grotesquely huge, expensive and senseless Skopje 2014 Project to the hysterical behavior of basketball and handball national teams support clubs, whose anthem is exclusive, nationalist and racist.
Ethnic Macedonian fan clubs sing their songs usually accompanied with slogans such as “Gas chambers for Shiptars [pejorative context of the name for Albanians]” and “Cleavers for Shiptars”. These songs and slogans are screamed at stadiums and city squares in presence of the President Ivanov and PM Gruevski, who never condemned such behavior. To the contrary, the government paid 1000 tickets to fan clubs members to travel to Belgrade, for example. Albanian flags were burned at the stadiums and sports halls in Macedonia and Serbia by Macedonians. Albanian fan clubs responded with burning Macedonian flags at stadiums in Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania…
The whole nationalist hysteria is conducted systematically, turning coalition partners into vassals and scapegoats, using spineless journalists and editors as agents of propaganda. These are all high-speed vehicles that drove us to the edge so often in the past several years, and escalated to ethnic violence involving severe beatings of minors and elderly these days. The brutality that we witness these days is a logical continuation of that and such politics of the ruling party and its vassals. One doesn’t have to be Einstein to see where this all will lead, as it did.
DIVISION AND VIOLENCE
The outbreak of ethnic violence involves mainly young people. The worst incident took place when about thirty masked persons equipped with baseball clubs and metal bars broke into a city bus and severely beat over ten minors, including females, all ethnic Albanians. Beatings erupted on both sides in the days that followed.
Violence among ethnic Macedonians and Albanians is not new, and it is a consequence of systematic segregation in the schools and elsewhere conducted by the government for a number of years now. On top of it, the young people of this country are well-fed with nationalism by institutions of the state.
Despite legally binding documents and strategies adopted by the government, including the one on integrated education (2010), politicians in power continued fostering ethnic division in schools. That came in combination with textbooks of history and other subjects that include highly prejudiced contents; ethnic Macedonian and Albanian students in Macedonia study different histories of each other’s nation.
Ethnic hatred is encouraged by purely ethnic Macedonian nationalist cultural policies of the government or, more precisely, of the ruling party and its coalition partner, DUI (otherwise, political successor of the Macedonian UCK in 2001). DUI also gets its share of the budget to nurture nationalist feelings amongst its voters, of course, using far less money from the budget; still seems to be very happy with it.
So, let’s conclude and emphasize once again: the outbreak of ethnic violence is a consequence of the nationalist and discriminatory politics of the ruling political and power structures in the country.
CONSPIRACY THEORIES vs REALITY
Violence won’t stop. The security situation will get worse. The government doesn’t have the integrity to stop it in a credible and sustainable way. Meanwhile, metal bars and baseball clubs may easily be replaced by guns, just as setting flags and war of words on social networks preceded current violence. Every now and then it smells like war in Macedonia. Now, who wants war in Macedonia?
Definitely, those who believe in conspiracy theories will have a great deal of stories to tell about dark conspiracies coming from the West, wanting to destroy ethnic and “ancient” Macedonians, etc. Some conspiracy theories fan on the Albanian side might start believing that this is a Serbian or Russian conspiracy to exterminate Albanians… Some might believe a conspiracy theory about a complot led by the two main coalition partners, the Macedonian VMRO and the Albanian DUI in order to remain in power and profit from an outbreak of violence and armed conflict. Some say that this very situation is linked to the name issue, NATO accession, etc.
Well, as long as one believes conspiracies more than obvious facts, there will be manipulation. Moreover, conspiracies are only possible if there is someone already willing to carry out violent and murderous acts. And, they are possible only after we, ourselves, start the fire. Besides, if you pull out a gun, it is not very probable that someone else from outside will come and push your finger to pull the trigger. Even if so… Why pull out a gun? Why carry a gun at all?
No one wants war?
Look at the parliament! Ruling majority members of the parliament try to pass the responsibility to the opposition politicians, accusing them of stirring the conflict and adding ethnic dimension to each incident. That’s infantile, to say the least. The string of violent incidents is ethnic, indeed, and is a consequence of aggressive nationalist agendas – conducted by the majority in the parliament. It cannot be controlled by parents and schools anymore, as the PM and some other leading politicians try to suggest. They, politicians, took that chance away long ago.
So, who wants war in Macedonia?
It could be crooked politicians who fear justice after losing power. Or, it could be crooked politicians who want more money, so war is a good chance for that. War might be a good cover for the crimes of the rulers. No one wants war – could be one of the answers – but it is the only logical continuance of what is going on for years now. The latter seems to be the most possible and most frightening one. Today’s politicians in power and their miserable media servants hide their personal frustrations and ignorance behind revulsion and delinquency in fascistic manners, insolently violating each and every principle of human behavior, spreading fear, and sponsor ethnic, religious and racial hatred. What will happen if (when) an overheated street situation, involving special police units, will result in a death of a youngster? More violence - possibly armed. And more repressive response by over-trained thugs on the police force.
Cure? The government has to admit its share of responsibility and come up with a sustainable and sincere plan how to correct its past actions. The public prosecutor Svrgovski has to finally wake up and raise charges against perpetrators of violent crimes at higher levels. Um, arrest the government, maybe? However, media hooligans have to be taken responsible for their promotion of hatred. Government has to cease its media control and restore democracy in the country. It has to stop the ridiculous and megalomaniac projects and admit the mistakes. Opposition has to drop its nationalist rhetoric in chase for more voters. Political dialogue has to be restored. Civil society has to unite and make a clear stand against nationalism and violence. The demands are difficult and require energy, sincerity and bravery. Some demands are unrealistic, knowing who the Macedonian politicians are, but it’s good if we have them in our view. In time these demand might become possible.
These days we all need to invest in the future of our children and say no to cowards with baseball clubs. Before they become AK-47s…
This post is also available in: Albanian