By Natalya Kovalenko and Irina Tsyplakova
Mobilized by Facebook posters which successfully evaded anti-hatred censorship on the Web, thousands of masked pro-nationalist youths marched through central Sofia Saturday to demand that the Bulgarian authorities take tough action against Gypsy-bred crime. Police in full riot gear stood by but did not intervene. Fortunately, officers prevented the marchers from reaching Sofia’s Roma-populated neighbourhoods. The Bulgarian Roma leader Tsvetelin Kynchev had advised Sofia Gypsies to stay indoors at the time of the march.
Bulgaria’s latest wave of anti-Roma unrest started on September 23rd after a posh car driven by the Gypsy mafia boss Kirill Rashkov hit and killed a 19-year-old ethnic Bulgarian boy named Angel Petrov in an incident near Plovdiv. Adding insult to injury, Rashkov immediately issued threats against the family of the dead youth. Rioting erupted, in which radical youths attacked Roma houses and clashed with police. Hundreds, including Rashkov, are now being held.
The Bulgarian journalist Dencho Vladimirov speaks about resentment created by Roma crime:
“Rioting by tolerant and law-abiding people like Bulgarians indicates a serious underlying problem. I believe the kid-glove treatment of Bulgaria’s Roma community over the past 20 years – including subsidies and foreign help – has badly backfired. Young people outside the Roma community are totally justified in resenting unfair privileges to the Roma. They say all people in Bulgaria, including the Roma, must pay taxes and face punishment for offences.”
Politics are never far away from the Roma issue, as Bulgaria is gearing up for municipal and presidential elections on October 23rd . The candidate from the Bulgarian National Party Krasimir Karakachanov proposes, among other things, to deny childcare allowances to families with more than 3 children. He hopes this can contain a population explosion in the Roma community.
The Bulgarian analyst Todor Bikov speaks about foul play on the part of some unscrupulous politicians:
“The unrest in the wake of Petrov’s killing was fanned from high offices with the help of state-operated media. A design is apparently at work to distract domestic attention from economic and political problems, as elections loom.”
Bulgaria is a nation of 7 million and 4 hundred thousand people, of whom anything up to a million are Roma. Reports say many in the Roma community are stocking up on arms, ostensibly for self-defence. He Roma leader Tsvetelin Kynchev also warns of stinking mayhem if all Roma hotel staff, street sweepers and garbage collectors stop work in protest at anti-Roma attacks.