by: DEHRAN MURATOV
“Home defenders”, or parapolice were formed following the protest that was held on April 8, where some residents of Trajanovo Trlo demanded from the competent institutions to take measures in order for the thefts and burglaries in their houses and yards to stop. However, in addition to the demands for the thefts to stop, they also sent a message that a new neighbourhood with typical houses for housing 28 families, namely, about a hundred Roma living illegally in the Old barracks in Kocani, could be built “overt their dead bodies”
CIVIL’s team visited Kocani after the several incidents that took place recently. They spoke with Mayor Nikolcho Ilijev, representatives of NGOs, as well as with several citizens of Trajanovo Trlo.
“Not all Roma are thieves. Let the police catch the outlaws who are stealing from houses across Trajanovo Trlo”, says Milica Ivanova in a conversation with CIVIL’s team, who spoke about how the “parapolice” beat up her nephew, who had done nothing wrong.
“Around twenty people with bats and masks over their heads ten days ago beat up my nephew, who was innocent, and had just come back from work. Without any explanation, several men came during the night and started breaking the windows of my nephew’s house and car. My nephew was inside, his wife, who is still recovering from a Caesarean section, and the little baby. My nephew took the baby in his lap to protect it from the glass that was flying around from the windows, and while he was kneeling, the people with the bats starting hitting him. My daughter-in-law also has bruises on the eye, because they also slapped her several times”, says Ivanova.
She adds that the Roma who live in that neighbourhood don’t pass by the main street anymore, because they are afraid of being beaten up by the “home defenders”. She says they go to the store hiding through “goat” trails as if in “Turkish” times.
“We all get distressed if something rattles outside, thinking that they will come to attack us again. The entire neighbourhood is living in fear. They say the Roma steal. No, not all Roma steal. We collect from bins all day long; we want to honestly earn our bread. We don’t want what is stolen. Let them imprison those who steal, there is police, court for that…”, says Ivanova.
CIVIL’s team also met with the Mayor of the Municipality of Kocani, Nikolce Ilijev. At the meeting, interethnic relations, coexistence, tolerance, European perspectives were discussed. After the meeting, Mayor Ilijev gave an interview for CIVIL Media about the recent events in Trajanovo Trlo.
Ilijev says that he condemns every violence, robbery, disagreement and non-compliance to the laws, but also adds that the case with the beaten child in Trajanovo Trlo in Kocani (on April 11) is an isolated case and is not related to the protest, where a group of citizens on April 8 protested with demands for the thefts and attacks in their homes to stop.
Furthermore, Ilijev in the interview for CIVIL Media said that for the construction of the residential buildings in the area of Presecena Skala in Kocani, which will be intended for housing socially vulnerable families from the Old Barracks, the Council of the Municipality of Kocani will again review this at the next session that is to be held next week on Thursday, since Friday is a non-working day.
Ilijev emphasized that he will not allow interethnic disagreements and that every problem will be solved by dialogue and communication, from which all citizens will be satisfied.
The case with the 10-year-old beaten (Roma) child about an alleged theft by the residents of the Kocani settlement “Trajano Trlo” alerted the public, but also some of the competent institutions for resolving the case. The incident took place immediately after the residents of “Trajanovo Trlo” protested against the construction of typical houses for socially disadvantaged families, with a banner reading “Only over our dead bodies”, stressing that they will not allow a new neighbourhood inhabited by Roma to be built next to them.
Although this case seems isolated, it still does indicate that relations between the Macedonian and Roma ethnic community, not only in Kocani, but everywhere across the country are troubled, with frequent tensions and incidents.
Precisely because of these reasons, CIVIL also asked Deputy Director of the Agency for community rights realization Xhelal Hodzic several questions, who says that unfortunately our societies are still burdened with such unwanted cases and that the lack of communication between the communities, as well as between the institutions, the impunity for various kinds of discrimination and hate speech fuel such negative occurrences.
“We think that in the past years, the interethnic relations have significantly improved, unlike in the past. We are still concerned that in the recent such and similar events that have taken place, that members of the Roma community, which is still the most discriminated, have been targeted. We believe that the impunity for hate speech and hate crime are the biggest problem that encourages such unwanted cases. The Agency for community rights realization together with the NGO sector, as well as the international community has been for years working on promoting diversity, mutual tolerance and raising awareness on the rights of smaller communities”, says Hodzic.
We also presented questions to Artan Grubi, Deputy Prime Minister of Political System and Relations Between Communities, as well as Darko Stojcevski, member of council from VMRO-DPMNE in the Municipality of Kocani. We have not received any reply until the publishing of this story.
We also did not receive any reply from independent member of council Venko Krstevski, who on his Facebook profile regarding the incidents wrote “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.
Citizens from “Trajanovo Trlo” say that after the incidents there has been police patrol every day at the entrance to the neighbourhood.
The Department for Interior Affairs – Kocani in cooperation with the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Kocani is working on completely clearing the events that took place on April 11 in the Kocani settlement of “Tajanovo Trlo”. The Sector for Interior Affairs – Stip announced that yesterday and today five criminal charges have been filed for the participants in the bloody events that happened in Trajanovo Trlo.
As the police informs, “The Department of Interior Affairs – Kocani has filed criminal charges against M.V (31) and S.D (46), both from Kocani, due to existence of grounds for suspicion for having committed “violence”. On 11.04.2021 in Kocani, in the yard of the house of A.N and I.V, the defendants with wooden objects damaged the passenger vehicle “Opel”, damaged the house by breaking glass, after which they physically assaulted the injured parties”.
Furthermore, the police have announced that two more criminal-legal events from April 11 have been cleared.
Criminal charges with the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office Kocani have been filed against A.V (23) from Kocani, due to the existence of grounds for suspicion for having committed “threatening with dangerous weapon in fight and quarrel”. According to the police, “the reported person on 11.04,2021 at about 7.30 pm near his house with a chainsaw turned on threatened that he would attack N.N and several other persons”.
Criminal charges have also been filed against N.N (20) and A.N (20) from Kocani for the crime “serious bodily injury”. The Sector for Interior Affairs Stip announced that “The defendants, on 11.04.2021 at about 9.00 pm on street 203 in Kocani, encountered M.V and physically attacked him with a wooden object, inflicting serious bodily injury determined in the General Hospital in Kocani.
Previously, the Department of Interior Affairs – Kocani filed criminal charges for seven people, charging them for the crime “violence against a child”.
CIVIL, in the announcement of April 15, most strongly condemns the behaviour of certain political and other structures in the country regarding the case of Trajanovo Trlo, in which extreme racism and nationalist rampage are noticed. Regardless of the “side” from which the destructive occurrences in society and on the political scene are coming from, regardless of whether it concerns politically, ethnically or religiously motivated incidents, they cannot and must not be justified and kept silent.
Such behaviour across the country, and in the Municipality of Kocani, has to stop immediately! Civil society and the public are called upon to clearly and unequivocally reject and condemn the hate speech, discrimination and violence, calls CIVIL.
At the end, a clear message needs to be sent to the public: Hatred will not disappear overnight, but the incidents, disagreements, discrimination can stop… The system needs to finally start to function and for everyone violating the law to be sanctioned and to be held responsible, regardless of their ethnic, religious or political affiliation. Let’s condemn the attacks and finally stop the practice of “everyone to weep at their own grave”.
translation: N. Cvetkovska