[ 25. Sep 2011 ]

The conflict in Katunitza is not ethnic

The police defends the property of the criminal mafia boss

On 23rd of September 2011 a 16 year old kid was killed by bulgarian Mafiosi. Protests in Katuniza were organised, but the media, the right-wing parties in Bulgaria, and the neo-Nazis were quick to react and they framed the conflict as "ethnic." Statement of the anti-racist initiative "XoPa" regarding the events in Katunitza, Bulgaria.


Yesterday and today (September 24, 2011) two kids died. One of them was 16 years old and the other 18 years old. They became a victim of the notorious mafia boss from a village near Plovdiv, Bulgaria. The name of the mafia boss is Kiril Rashkov, a.k.a. "Tsar" Kiro, famous for his successful illicit alcohol trade. One of the children died after his killers run him over by a minibus and dragged him for more than 5 km. An event that took place in the village of Katunitza. After the fatal incident the local people of Katunitza went out on the streets to protest against the criminal - Tsar Kiro. The parents of the dead child have multiple times in the past warned the police that Rashkov is threatening them, yet the police never reacted. The murder played crucial role in unleashing people's anger and they went out to seek justice against the mafia boss. Over 200 armed gendarmerie officers intervened in order to protect Tsar Kiro's property. During the protests that have taken place for two straight days, another boy died. He had heart problems and could not endure the stress caused by the events. What is extremely indicative of the situation is a paper found in one of Rashkov's cars. The document is signed by the local municipality and it basically allows the mafia boss to move freely throughout the streets without having to comply with the law.

This story clearly shows that the conflict is between the ordinary citizens (their "ethnicity" does not matter) and a mafia boss who is used to be unpunished for his actions, including actions that involve murder; because he knows that no matter what he does he will be protected by the elite police of Bulgaria. Clearly, this story has nothing to do with "ethnic" contradictions. In Bulgaria there are mafia bosses belonging to multiple "ethnicities". We cannot talk either of the "ethnic" origin of the victims of these mafia bosses. What is important here is that the actions of the mafia bosses are tolerated by the police and by the state.

What is clear in this case is that the revolt of the people of Katunitza is aimed against the painful social inequalities; against the fact that the state defends wealthy criminals but it is unwilling to assure simple security (both physical and social) for its citizens. The inability to deal with these problems in a legal way leads to violent acts on the part of the people that are justifiable considering the suffering undergone by them. The latter is advantageous for a system that privileges the mafia bosses and puts them before the people.

This is exactly why the authorities are afraid to "politicize" the events and they refuse to point out to the obvious, namely the unequal treatment of citizens based on their social situation. This is exactly why the Prime Minister, Borisov, announced that the events in Katunitza are not political but criminal.

As is most often the case, the blame was shifted through means of "ethnicizing" the social conflict. This means that the unfolding affairs were presented as a problem between "Bulgarians" and "Romas." This is what lays in the basis of racism. An example of the last is the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization's (IMRO) decision to organize an anti-Roma protest right after the incident. This is such a convenient position considering that the mayor of Plovdiv is part of IMRO and in turn supported by GERB (the leading party in Bulgaria). In this sense IMRO needs to bear direct blame for what is happening in the village of Katunitza.

Moreover, the leaders of the youth IMRO, Angel Djambaski (known for his frequent racist deeds) was fast to name the problem an "ethnic conflict." This same man serves as a municipal counselor in Sofia and was elected as part of GERB's ballot.

This is a typical case of escaping direct responsibility through racist references of ethnic conflicts where they obviously do not exist. The mafia boss Rashkov used the same exact tactic when he claimed that the protests against him are based on "ethnic discrimination." Exactly people like him create racism and gain from it because this allows them to do whatever they want by transferring the blame on the already hatred Roma people.

The real problem with such lies is that they are an attempt to displace the just demands of the people with prejudice, thus trying to move the attention from these demands towards an ethnic hatred that is in itself suicidal for the society at large.

Besides the politicians, some of the media outlets substituted the real problem for "ethnic" such. The way they presented the events is that on one hand the clashes are between the ordinary Bulgarians and the Romas and on the other hand between the people and Rashkov's family and the cops that defend him. In the police however, there are people from different "ethnic" background. Thus, the conflict is not between representatives of different ethnic groups but between people angered by a criminal and the police that defends this criminal's property. Besides all this, the fact that the local Roma population not only does not defend Rashkov but is actually standing against him, as we can see from BTV's (one of the major TV stations) reports, is omitted from the story.

This misrepresentation of the truth is now new phenomena. Just the fact that the media calls Rashkov the "Roma boss," "Tsar Kiro," etc, is indicative. The Roma people do not see Rashkov as their "boss" or their "leader" and surely not as their "Tsar." "Tsar" is a word that Rashkov uses himself in his attempt to construct himself as feudal: an attempt that has worked pretty successfully so far.

We, the people in the anti-racist initiative XoPa (People against Racism), are devoted to point out to the racism in our society. This is exactly why we cannot bypass this emblematic case that clearly shows the roots of the problems and how often racism is used as a tool to disenfranchise the just demands on the part of the people. This is a process that besides everything else could have extremely dangerous social consequences and a process that is feeding aggressive neo-Nazi formations. An example of the latter is not only IMRO but also the soccer hooligans that joined the protesters for the wrong reasons. We do believe that to a big extent the media that presented the conflict as "ethnic," is to be blamed for the massive neo-Nazi mobilization that occurred in Katunitza.

We are turning to the citizens now and plead to them not to be fooled by these racist attitudes because this is not going to resolve the problem with Bulgaria's organized crime. The mafia in Bulgaria has no "ethnicity" and nobody is insured against the mafia's deeds.