Saturday, 21 May 2011

Turkey Interferes in Bulgaria's Internal Affairs

A protest in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, yesterday, led to violence between the indigenous Bulgarians, who were demonstrating against the nuisance caused by the mosque's loudspeaker-relayed call to prayer, and Turkic Muslims who were praying there at the time.

The protest had been organised by the Bulgarian nationalist Ataka party, led by Volen Siderov. Accounts vary about who started the violence, but most of the mainstream press, predictably, is portraying the Muslims as the innocent party.

The Bulgarian Human Rights Commission has even called for the Ataka party to be abolished in response to the incident.

Scuffles broke out after one of the Ataka protesters tried to steer a column towards Muslims taking part in Friday prayers, Bulgarian National Radio said.

Ataka supporters shouted "Ataka","Bulgaria", "Turks out" and "janissaries," eyewitness reports said. Protesters threw stones and bottles at the mosque.

After the brawl broke out, two Ataka supporters were arrested.

Siderov alleged that one of the Muslims had thrown a stone at an Ataka MP, Denitsa Gadzheva, but had not been arrested. Gadzheva and another participant in the protest were taken to hospital by ambulance.

Five police officers and five Muslims were injured, the Interior Ministry said.

Siderov alleged that the police were biased, and called them a "janissary corps", a reference to the Ottoman-era practice of Bulgarians being taken into service of the sultan.

Local news agency Focus said that after the clash at the mosque, Ataka supporters headed towards the Parliament building.

Ivailo Ninov, one of the protest organisers, said that the event had been directed against the use of loudspeakers to sound the call to prayer, and not against Muslims. He said that residents of the area had joined the protest in support.


The Turkish government condemned what it called a "racist attack":

Turkey strongly condemned a racist attack on Friday against people praying in a mosque in neighboring Bulgaria, which is home to some 700,000 ethnic Turks, urging Bulgarian authorities to take the necessary steps to punish the assailants.

A statement released by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Friday said Turkey expects the Bulgarian authorities to urgently capture and punish the perpetrators of the attack on what it called one of the most basic rights and freedoms of people.

This is extremely revealing of Turkish attitudes. Most of the Muslims in Bulgaria are of Turkic origin. The Turkish government clearly sees itself as the protector of the Turkish diaspora, including not just Turkish emigrants or even their descendants, but even people of Turkic origin whose families may have been settled in other countries for centuries. This is reminiscent of Hitler's attitude towards the Sudeten Germans living in Czechoslovakia. European countries should take note of this attitude and, given the Turkish colonies emerging in their own countries, are entitled to feel threatened by it.

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