While scrolling on Facebook one day, I stumbled across a post saying ‘Die!!!’. What was below the miserable curse you might ask – a video shot of a massive refugee riot that took place in the largest refugee center in Bulgaria, Harmanli Refugee Reception and Registration Center, hosting over 3000 asylum-seekers. On Thursday 24th the rebellious migrants gathered in front of the camp, ‘armed’ with stones and wooden sticks, to demonstrate their anger towards the strict quarantine they were put upon. Hundreds of people were rumored to have dangerous infections such as malaria, and as a result they were prohibited to leave the refugee camp for three days. Accordingly, they began a protesting action pelting the police with the natural ammunitions, mentioned above.
In recent days we have all been exposed to dire media reports concerning the case. BBC, Deutsche Welle, and The Guardian are among the international press which commented the incident. What they have not done yet, together with the Bulgarian media was to complete the story-telling. I can accept the fact the multinational journalists do not have enough wealth of information but wonder what the excuse of the local ones was.
Marginalia, a journal on human rights, has published the article A refugee riot? No, a police assault! the day after the demonstration, when most of the newspaper guys were busy to send out reports on local people`s fear from guess what. According to Marginalia, the police entered the dormitory part of the camp as the dusk fell, when neither the refugees were in breach of something, nor the media representatives were still present. A hefty number of 125 injured was displayed only in the so-called segment of the ‘Afghan wing camp’.
“The floor and the mattresses are in blood,” said one refugee. Another source indicates beating over several refugees who were not involved in the protests, but also attacked in their dormitories. Most of those who were arrested (over 400 people) also had wounds. Photos provided by a refugee who requested to stay anonymous show severe skin cuts and gunshot wounds. No one has confirmed yet that three refugees were killed.
As a response, Maria Spirova and Stanislava Topouzova started a petition consisted of three main demands written underneath. Everyone who feel in solidarity is asked to sign it voluntarily.
- To allow international organizations unrestricted access inside the Harmanli Refugee Reception and Registration Centre;
- To immediately facilitate, or oversee the provision of, adequate medical treatment for everyone affected;
- To conduct an independent investigation into the perpetrators of the beatings.
Now then, to clear up something I have started with – the miserable curse, right. I opened the Facebook page that let us all to have a first-hand access on what is going on in Harmanli. Its name ‘A Nationalistic Resistance’ is definitely thought-provoking, especially because of the high number of followers it has – 33, 061 until 17:25 pm, 27.11.2016. Looking at the hate-speech comments, made by limited childish minds, seems quite safe at first glance. And yet, what is dangerous about this growing tight knit community is their organized direct action. On the day of the refugee riots, a group of self-initiative nationalists went in Harmanli, calling themselves a detachment, in order to assist the police and solve the problem on their own. Lead by two well-know ‘contemporary national heroes’, Dinko Vylev and Petyr Nizamov – Perata, the crowd claims that the refugees have no place to stay in Bulgaria.
However, I wrote this piece in order to spread the Harmanli case and to show my own surprise of the growing nationalism in Bulgaria where the media is directly involved [this applies to the two most popular private televisions – BTV and “New TV”]. Lastly, to request a signature from anybody who would like give a hand.