Controversy continues over ultra-nationalist ‘civil patrols’, while Sofians march against fascism

Written by on November 17, 2013 in Bulgaria - No comments

The “civil patrols” by Bulgarian ultra-nationalist group National Unity will continue in capital city Sofia on November 18, leader Boyan Rasate told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television.

His statement came on the same day that an ultra-nationalist march calling for the expulsion of migrants and the continuation of the ban on the sale of land to foreigners took place in Sofia, some hours after an anti-fascist march, and some days after the Interior Ministry directorate in the capital rejected Rasate’s earlier claim that the “civil patrols” had the blessing of the city’s police.

On November 17, Rasate, long a minor figure on the extremist fringes of Bulgarian politics, again claimed that Sofia municipality and the police directorate in the city were aware of the patrols and did not oppose them.

There was uproar on social networks after the group, consisting of young men in jeans and black jackets with armbands based on the Bulgarian flag, posted online photographs of themselves stopping people in the centre of the city, shining torches in faces and demanding to inspect official identity documents.

This latter activity is unlawful. Bulgarian law permits only police officers to demand to see identity documents. Earlier, police ordered a “civil patrol” group to disperse, although it seems no arrests were made.

Angel Dzhambazki, deputy leader of the VMRO-BND political party, told BNT that for months his party had been warning of the danger of the crowding of immigrants in the city centre.

It had taken the stabbing of a Bulgarian shop assistant to get the police to do their job, Dzhambazki said. An Algerian illegal migrant is currently facing charges in connection with this stabbing incident.

Elsewhere in Sofia on November 17, at a roundtable discussion in Sofia on the topic “the refugee problem – myths and reality”. Syrian journalist Nidal Khlaif said that there were nationalist militia patrols only in totalitarian countries in Africa and Latin America.

“Ten days ago, nationalist patrols began to pass through the capital centre. One of their leaders said they had received permission from the Ministry of Interior, but Interior Minister Tsvetlin Yovchev denies this. This is very dangerous. There are such militias only in totalitarian countries – in Africa and Latin America – militias to walk down the streets and to ask people for their identity cards. I watch them, they stop foreigners and ask them for identity cards. Who are they and who gives them those rights? This is a very dangerous game,” Khlaif said, quoted by local news agency Focus.

Khlaif said that a number of politicians were trying to make political points on the back of refugees and many people will suffer.

On November 17, the protest group demanding the expulsion of refugees and the extension of the moratorium on the sale of land to foreigners began their protest, with a curious symbolism, by dancing the horo – a traditional circular dance – outside the Agriculture Ministry. In their unique reasoning, this horo-dancing represented the unification of the Bulgarian people on the issue of Bulgarian land.

Earlier, a group that had been rallied on Facebook held a march against xenophobia on the theme of “Warning! Fascism!”.

A few hundred people, carrying banners saying “Sofia is not a racist city” and chanting “fascism is not an opinion but a crime”, also rang bells to awaken people to the dangers of fascism.

Participants said that they wanted to alert people to the dangers of rising xenophobia, as evidenced by assaults on migrants – and at least one Bulgarian mistaken for a migrant – in Bulgaria in recent weeks.

Organisers said that the march had no link to any political party.

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