Opinion on Escaping Hell in Hitrino and Harmanli: Some Matter More Than Others

Written by on December 15, 2016 in Bulgaria - No comments

Hitrino and Harmanli sound somewhat similar. They are 270 kilometers apart and they have things in common. In both localities, there are people who escaped hell. In both cases, most of them are Muslims, all of whom need help. But there are also big differences.


On December 10th, 2016, a freight train pulling gas tanks derailed in Hitrino. The accident caused a huge explosion, killing seven people, injuring 29 and destroying 26 houses. Hitrino is a very poor village. The inhabitants are predominantly Bulgarian Muslims. About 1000 of them are stuck with relatives or in emergency shelters, for now.

For many years, the situation in Afghanistan has been terrible. The Taliban and other forces are terrorizing and murdering people. In the ongoing war in Syria, many thousands of people, including entire families, have been killed. The victims are predominantly Muslims. And 3000 of them are stuck in the Migrant Center of Harmanli.


Since the inferno of Hitrino happened, Bulgaria has been doing absolutely everything to help the surviving victims and the entire population of the village. Within days, more than 6 million Euro have been collected and promised by NGOs, thousands of donors as well as the government in Sofia. The country is showing the people of Hitrino they are wanted and they will not be left alone.

In the other case, a handful of volunteers show solidarity, but what the refugees in Harmanli are mostly getting is the opposite. Constantly, xenophobic groups stage protests during which they demand the deportation of those who fled war zones, and who need our help. The country is mostly showing the people in the Harmanli camp that they are not wanted and that they should not even be here.


In one case, opponents of refugees even tried to make the country believe they carried diseases and had to be locked up inside the Harmanli camp, in which, according to the UNHCR, the conditions are deplorable. This strategy backfired, but it is still part of discussions I have had. Connecting an entire people or ethnic group to diseases or accusing them of being “dirty” is not a modern invention. It is a strategy which was applied hundreds of years ago, e.g. against European Jews, who were not allowed to become farmers.

In the other case, an entire country is bending over backwards to help, and rightly so. But why does solidarity and help have to be limited to Bulgarians, to Bulgarian Muslims, to Bulgarian villagers, who went through hell?

This aspect should definitely be thought about in this country.

By Imanuel Marcus




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