Sofia police step up security near mosque after man mistaken for refugee seriously assaulted

Police in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia have stepped up security in streets nearby the landmark Banya Bashi mosque after a group of men in their 20s seriously assaulted a man they apparently mistook for a refugee and attempted to batter their way into a building housing refugees.

The victim of the assault, a Bulgarian of Turkish extraction identified in media reports as named Georgi “Metin” Dimitrov (28), remained in hospital on November 10 2013 in serious conditions, in a coma with severe head injuries.

Two men, aged 28 and 29, have been arrested in connection with the assault on “Metin” Dimitrov. Both are said to be from Sofia. Media reports said that about five to six men had been involved in the attack. According to the Interior Ministry, three further suspects are being sought.

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Syrian refugees complain against Bulgarian MP’s hate speech

Magdalena TashevaA group of Syrian refugees in Bulgaria have filed a complaint with the country’s Discrimination Protection Committee against Magdalena Tasheva, a lawmaker from the ultranationalist Ataka party, over a series of shockingly xenophobic remarks.

Tasheva, who hosts a show broadcast by Ataka’s own TV channel, Alpha TV, has repeatedly insulted the Syrian refugees on air, calling them “fiends”, “scum”, “mass killers”, “cannibals”, “savages”, “Islamic fundamentalists who have escaped justice” and “terrible, despicable primates”, among others. She has claimed that the refugees “have started stealing and beating people” and would “start raping and chopping heads off.”

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Bulgarian far right in new protest against Sofia’s Banya Bashi mosque

Volen Siderov, leader of Bulgaria's nationalist party "Attack", attends protest in front of Banya Bashi Mosque in central Sofia
Volen Siderov heads an Ataka protest against the Banya Bashi mosque in May 2011

Two Bulgarian far-right nationalist parties – Ataka (Attack) and VMRO – staged Thursday the latest protest against the volume of the loudspeakers of Sofia’s Banya Bashi mosque.

About 100 activists and supporters of the parties gathered across the building of the City Hall in downtown Sofia under the sounds of patriotic songs.

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Bulgarian police stop Ataka campaigners plastering mosque with election posters

Police prevented election campaign staff for Ataka leader Volen Siderov from putting posters of the ultra-nationalist presidential candidate on a mosque in the Bulgarian town of Shoumen, Bulgarian-language media reports said.

Siderov, currently running weakly among the field of Bulgaria’s 18 would-be heads of state, is known for his stance against, among other things, what he terms the Islamisation of Bulgaria and what he alleges to be a threat to the country’s national security by radical Islamists. Some months ago, he and his supporters were involved in a violent clash outside a mosque in central Sofia when the Ataka group protested against loudspeakers calling the faithful to prayer during a Friday service.

Mass-circulation daily 24 Chassa quoted the mayor of the Kaolinovo municipality, Nida Ahmed, as saying that he had called the police after a caravan of Siderov supporters had stopped in the village of Zagoriche and had attempted to plaster a newly-built mosque with Siderov posters. The group, of more than 100 people, said that mosques should be built only in Turkey, according to Ahmed.

Police intervened to stop the group and the matter ended without incident. Under Bulgarian law, putting election campaign material on houses of worship is illegal.

Sofia Echo, 9 October 2011

Socialist mayoral candidate backs second mosque in Sofia

Georgi Kadiev, the leftist Bulgarian Socialist Party’s runner for Mayor of the capital Sofia, has stated he has “nothing against” the possible construction of a second mosque in the city. If necessary, even a third and a fourth mosque may be built, as well as a synagogue or an Armenian temple.

However, Kadiev, who on Wednesday met the Chief Mufti of the Bulgarian Muslim Community, has set a restriction for the potential future mosque – it should not have loudspeakers, as their sound may be found too aggressive by the rest of the citizens.

Kadiev pointed out that most of Sofia’s Muslim community, between 30,000 and 50,000 people, are foreigners and do not have the right to vote, stating his endorsement is not populism.

At the beginning of June, Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, DPS, demanded to have a second mosque built in the capital Sofia.

On May 20, supporters of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party, led by party Chair, Volen Siderov, shocked Bulgaria as its rally protesting against the use of loudspeakers by the mosque got out of hand, and activists of Ataka assaulted praying Muslims in front of the mosque.

Novinite, 22 June 2011

ECHR head admits Islamophobia rising in Europe

Lawsuits based on Muslim discrimination are on the rise in Europe.

That’s what Jean-Paul Costa, president of the European Court of Human Rights, pointed out when Press TV asked him about the spreading of crimes triggered by religious and ethnic hatred.

Costa was on an official visit to Bulgaria and state authorities declared before him that they intend to impose a special law to compensate victims of human rights violations, as well as to establish a governmental unit to enforce more effectively convictions toward Bulgaria.

The European Court of Human Rights has sentenced Bulgaria 63 times in 2010 alone. This makes it the 6th most convicted country among 47 members of the Council of Europe – and in the lead of the most convicted in the EU-27.

The most recent and brutal act of human rights violations in Bulgaria took place here, at Sofia Grand Mosque, where Muslim worshippers were attacked by far-right activists during a peaceful Friday prayer.

A month after the incident, the Parliament issued a declaration, condemning such provocations as threats to the ethnic peace and the national security. However, many Muslims say they still do not feel safe as the declaration has done little to protect them.

The demand was raised after a Muslim worshipper was beaten on his way to a morning prayer. His attackers also tried to break into the Mosque.

Ibrahim tells us he would gladly join any type of citizen patrols, he’s not afraid of attacks and won’t stop coming here for prayers.

Press TV, 17 June 2011

Bulgaria: chief mufti says state has failed to act against Islamophobic violence, calls on Muslims to organise self-defence

Volen Siderov, leader of Bulgaria's nationalist party "Attack", attends protest in front of Banya Bashi Mosque in central Sofia
Ataka leader Volen Siderov heads the protest against Sofia mosque on 20 May

Part of the Bulgarian society is plagued with Islamophobia, the Bulgarian Chief Mufti’s Office has declared in a special statement urging the Bulgarian Muslims to take measures to defend themselves against attacks.

Monday’s statement of the Chief Mufti’s Office comes a day after on Sunday the warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified attackers just minutes before the start of the morning prayer on Sunday.

In it, the Chief Mufti’s Office refers to the incident of May 20, 2011, when extremists from the nationalist and far-right party Ataka assaulted praying Muslims outside the Sofia Mosque Banya Bashi when an Ataka rally against the loudspeakers of the mosque got out of hand.

The Chief Mufti’s Office, however, complains that numerous similar incidents have followed ever since, and that the Bulgarian state institutions have failed to protect the Muslims in Bulgaria and their temples.

“After this next case of violence against a Muslim and the desecration of a mosque, the Bulgarian Muslim community has received a clear message that the state is either unable to protect us, or doesn’t want to do that, which leaves us in a very hard situation as citizens of the EU who were still hoping that there are sufficiently good democratic mechanisms for preventing repressions against us,” reads the statement of the religious leadership of the Bulgarian Muslims.

“Unfortunately, our hope turned out to be illusionary, our expectations were not met, and we are now aware that we have to provide for our own security and rights. Nnumerous cases, some of them rather shocking, in the recent years lead us to assume that Muslims are unwanted in this country, and that pressure against us will continue… [They] show that part of the Bulgarian society is hostile and aggressive against Islam, Islamic values, and the Muslim community,” the Chief Mufti’s Office says stressing that the above-described incidents should not be treated as hooliganism or criminal acts “but as a common strategy and intolerance against the Muslims, which could probably lead to more large-scale operations.”

“This kind of islamophobia and pressure expressed as threats, insults, restricting religious rights, and physical violence should be treated as an attempt to instigate inter-religious conflicts, a civil war, and a threat to the national security,” the Chief Mufti’s Office declares.

The statement further explains that even though after the attack on the Banya Bashi mosque on May 20, 2011, the Bulgarian Muslims “received the support of the politicians, the intelligentsia, and part of the society”, similar incidents have continued to occur.

The Chief Mufti’s Office says that on May 30, 2011, it alerted Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov about several more cases of physical assaults on praying Muslims but that it did not see any reaction from human rights organizations, the government, the civil society, the political parties.

“Why? Probably because we are now used to such incidents and because some circles acquiesce to the violence against us?.. The National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria adopted a declaration stating that the Muslims do not need to defend themselves because the authorities can do that. It turns out that this is not really true, and it is an attempt to put out the problem, to win time, and to blunt our feelings,” says the office of the Bulgarian Chief Mufti.

It further calls upon the Muslims in the country to organize day and night guards as volunteers “in order to protect what the state fails to protect – the honor and dignity of Islam and Muslims.”

“These steps are the beginning of a self-protection campaign. We are going to inform you of your next steps depending on the development of the problems and the desires of the community. In conclusion, we turn to our state leaders, institutions, and authorities, to all evil-minded people, to all Islamophobes, to all attackers – do you think that we love Bulgaria less than you?”, concludes the Chief Mufti’s Office.

Novinite, 13 June 2011

Sofia mosque warden attacked and beaten unconscious

The warden of the main mosque in downtown Sofia has suffered a brutal assault at the hands of unidentified attackers just minutes before the start of the morning prayer on Sunday, the Chief Mufti’s Office announced.

“Today we witnessed yet another attack against Sofia mosque. This morning, 20 minutes before the morning prayer, the warden of the mosque in Sofia was cruelly beaten. Unknown people have jumped over the fence of the mosque, beaten the keeper, destroyed the security room and burst into the mosque,” says the statement.

The man was found by worshippers who came to the mosque for the morning prayer, covered in blood and unconcious, it said. He has been taken to the emergency Pirogov hospital.

“Hate crimes, acts of xenophobia and Islamophobia have risen dramatically in recent months,” says the statement of the Chief Mufti’s Office.

The news comes just a month after a Muslim man and five policemen were hurt in clashes between supporters of Bulgaria’s ultra-nationalist Ataka party and worshippers outside the Banya Bashi mosque in Sofia on May 20.

Novinite, 12 June 2011

Update:  See Sofia Echo, 13 June 2011