Bulgarian NGO to sue over ongoing forced demolition of Romani homes in Garmen
News server novinite.com reports that the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (BHC) has issued a press release stating its objections to the ongoing forced demolition of buildings in the "Kremikovtsi" Romani quarter of the village of Garmen. The 29 June demolition rendered four families with a total of 15 children homeless and more demolitions are scheduled for 13 July, according to the Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance, which also reports that 124 of the quarter's 134 houses are slated for demolition.
The BHC says the demolitions violate international law and are creating even more problems. Novinite.com reports that the human rights NGO says they were undertaken as a sort of collective punishment against the entire community, some members of which are alleged to have been involved in illegal activity.
The website of the Amalipe Center for Interethnic Dialogue and Tolerance reports that a multidisciplinary research team headed by the Bulgarian State Agency for Child Protection (SACP) was formed on 2 July to assess the situation in Kremikovtsi. The team was formed by a representative of SACP, social workers from the towns of Gotse Delchev and Blagoevgrad, and two community moderators from the Amalipe Center - Ivan Todorov of the Community Development Center in Veliko Tarnovo and Stefan Stefanov of the Community Development Center in Pavlikeni.
Garmen was recently the scene of anti-Romani unrest that then spread to the capital. Such anti-Romani violence is not new to the country, which experienced anti-Romani riots in 2011 and severe inter-ethnic violence in 2007; last year the Romani community in Stara Zagora clashed with police over demolitions of their homes there.
News server sofiaglobe.com reports that the US State Department's recent human rights report on Bulgaria says popular prejudice against Romani people and other minority groups remained a problem during 2014. In addition to anti-Romani sentiment, anti-Semitic rhetoric is common in online social networking and comments posted beneath articles published online.
According to the State Department report, Jewish organizations are concerned about the Bulgarian Government's lack of prosecution of hate crimes, hate speech in particular, and say that website administrators are ignoring requests that anti-Semitic comments be deleted. The Bulgarian Internet environment features allegations that "Jews have engineered" the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and are somehow profiting from it; news server Romea.cz has previously reported that similar allegations about the conflict with Ukraine are featured in the Russian media as well.
According to the State Department report, Bulgarian authorities attempted to ban a rally in February 2014 honoring a WWII-era general known for his anti-Semitism, but 300 people gathered and marched in the capital anyway with police taking no action. Anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the Central Synagogue in Sofia in June 2014; police arrested four suspects and as of November 2014 pretrial proceedings were underway, according to the report.
News server focus-fen.net reported on 1 July that Bulgarian Vice President Margarita Popova attended a conference co-organized by Amalipe and the St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo on decreasing Romani school dropout. Teachers from more than 100 schools and various academics presented their personal experiences with keeping Romani pupils in school.
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