15 mei Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters
i ASK FOR YOUR ATTENTION TO THE Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters
Macedonia is currently in the spotlight of media attention. Last weekend (9-10th May) over 20 people, including police officers, were killed in violent clashes in Kumanovo, a city 20 km to the north of the capital Skopje. We, the citizens, activists, and scholars who initiated this call, join the national mourning and express heartfelt condolences for the deceased and injured officers, their families and loved ones, and stand in solidarity with all citizens of Kumanovo. Yet, many uncertainties that surround the incident have led citizens to suspect the validity of the official government rendition of the events.
We reject offhand speculations that frame the incident as interethnic and we invite the public to refrain from doing so and instead to systematically analyse the motives. We also remind here that the incident in Kumanovo happened in the midst of citizens’ protests calling for the resignation of the government. These calls have followed after years of protests and activism against discriminatory law reforms, almost total media control and continuous privatisation of all segments of living . In the past, we have protested for the freedom of the press, in support of media employees, and demanded the hijacked public broadcasting service returns to servicing the interests of the citizens. We demanded accountability for the ruined public health system. We have persistently fought for life with dignity and labour rights and we protest against the theft, impoverishment, and humiliation of the people.
At the forefront against any injustice, the protests have been gaining momentum after a series of leaked wiretapped phone calls were publicly broadcast by the largest opposition political party. The leaked phone calls allege unlawful and anti-constitutional dealings by top officials at a mass scale and abuse of state power for personal gains. In the wiretapping scandal, over 20.000 citizens were being wiretapped, all allegedly ordered by top government officials that used surveillance equipment purchased from Israel in 2008. The state control does not end here. Macedonia is one of 36 countries worldwide using software to surveil internet-based communication, according to a list published by University of Toronto.
Moreover, in this addendum we remind of the alarms we raised in our call for solidarity about possible violence. The government will continue to resist calls for resignation even now, when amidst all dilemmas about its ability to safeguard the security of its citizens and despite the large-scale surveillance it has unleashed, it is firm in its resolution to maintain grip of state power and avoid responsibilities.
We urge the global public, kindred movements, and people across the globe to support this Call for Solidarity as we fear a violent institutional repression of citizens’ resistance in Macedonia. In the past couple of years, the government has been purchasing equipment for mass control, including rubber bullets and water cannons, the former very likely via a Turkish company, producer of TOMA vehicles, that lists Macedonia’s government as its customer, among those of Kenya, Sudan and Mali. Macedonian citizens’ can only defend themselves with the number of supporters they have on their side. As those protesting in Macedonia are now uniting in a broad movement for justice and peace, clear demands and under the name #Протестирам (#Protestiram – meaning “I protest!”), YOUR solidarity is paramount!
Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters (originally written on 6 May)
The call is also available in French, Italian, German, Turkish, Polish, and Dutch.
On Tuesday night (05.05.2015) thousands of citizens of Macedonia protested outside of the government headquarters calling for resignation of the Prime Minister Gruevski and his cabinet. Audio tapes of wiretapped conversations between government officials, which were aired hours before, revealed direct involvement of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs in concealing the truth regarding the murder of a 22-year-old man beaten to death by a police officer while on duty in June 2011.
What started off as a peaceful protest against police brutality soon escalated as the protesters broke the police cordon and moved right in front of the government building. In a couple of hours, hundreds of fully armed special police forces cracked down on the protest using brute force, shock bombs and tear1 gas to disperse the crowds, and also threatened to use, but eventually refrained from using water cannons. By the end of the police action, dozens of citizens were detained – some of them after being chased far into downtown Skopje. In the hunt of protesters, the special police forces even raided a public university library, harassing the students who happened to be there at the time.As a result of the violent crackdown, a small number of police officers and passers-by, and a higher number of protesters were seriously injured. An estimated number of 40 activists have been detained. Protests have been scheduled to resume every day at 18:00.
Alarmed by Tuesday night’s indiscriminate use of force by the police forces in Skopje, we fear that the confrontations are likely to escalate further. We have no doubts that Gruevski will resist the calls for resignation and is prepared to push the police forces to tragic extremes in an attempt to maintain his grip on state power and resources.
The audiotape which sparked the protest is only the most recent one in a series of leaked wiretaps, which the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, has been broadcasting to the Macedonian public. What began with evidence of the surveillance of over 20,000 citizens orchestrated by the Prime Minister and his cousin, the Director of the Security and Counterintelligence Agency2, Sasho Mijalkov, continued with ever more scandalous revelations. In over 30 sets of leaked wiretaps the conversations revealed election fraud, complete control over the judiciary and media, actions of direct pressures and threats towards non-supporters, embezzlement of vast quantities of public money and public property for private gain, corruption on a massive scale. They have demonstrated how over a period of 9 years, since Gruevski has been in power, the state has been turned into a criminal network fully dedicated to defending the personal interests of the governing elite, their families and friends, and to maintaining a complete system of control of the public through the incessant use of propaganda. The nearly total control over the media has resulted in limited information available to the Macedonian public regarding the wiretapped materials, the protests and the brutality of the police. Social media and a few media portals have been the only sources of information.
This letter, coming from citizens, activists and academics concerned by the recent developments in Macedonia, is an attempt to draw attention to the events in the country. It is also a plea for your solidarity with the citizens who are seeking justice and freedom. We, the undersigned, support the protesters’ requests for the resignation of the Government. Moreover, we urge the Macedonian Police Forces to demonstrate solidarity with their citizens, to restrain from the disproportionate use of violence and to refuse any orders that are against the Constitution and in violation of the rights and liberties of the protesters. Finally, we call for an unbiased and professional reporting by national and international media on the ongoing events.
If you would like your name and/or that of your organization to be added to the list of supporters, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the following as the subject line: SOLIDARITY WITH MACEDONIA’S PROTESTERS.