Joint efforts by civil societies, religious communities and police thwart the latest interethnic violence in Skopje.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 14/03/13
Anti-riot police prevented protesters from approaching the government buildings. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
Joint efforts between Macedonia's civil society, religious communities and the government stopped an attempt to cause inter-ethnic violence in Skopje, showing that co-operation and unity can foster co-existence, analysts said.
After police announced they uncovered plans on a social media website by Albanian youths to instigate interethnic violence and attack government buildings after Friday prayer at the Jaja Pasha Mosque on March 8th, civil society organisations issued a joint declaration calling on citizens to take a proactive stand and prevent the violence.
"We appeal to parents and guardians to protect their youth from spreading any kind of ethnic, religious, national, racial or other hatred. Youth must not participate in protests without their parents and should not be used for political and party goals," the statement said.
The Islamic community joined the appeal and denounced the use of religious shrines as places to organise violence. The community said that political parties are misdirecting youths to score nationalist points for the upcoming March 24th local elections.
"We demand that political parties participating in the election campaign do not buy into interethnic hatred," the community said in a statement.
More than 100 Albanian youths disregarded the appeals but anti-riot police in downtown Skopje prevented the plan from taking shape.
"The police's preventive action showed just how important such measures are to preclude scenarios that can endanger peace and ethnic co-existence. To be effective, authorities must swiftly bring to justice all who purposely planned to fuel interethnic tensions by violent means," Jove Kekenovski, professor of politics at Ohrid's St. Kliment Ohridski University, told SETimes.
Analysts agreed the incidents were election-related.
"Political parties use such incidents to deflect public opinion from their bad projects. We need stable economy, not tensions and conflict," Mersel Biljali, a professor at the Faculty of Law at FON University, told SETimes.
Earlier this month, violent protests by several hundred Albanians resulted in injuries to 16 people amidst demolished cars and damaged buildings.
The protests were in response to demonstrations called by opposition party Dostoinstvo (Dignity) to protest the appointment of Talat Dzaferi, a former member of the National Liberation Army, as Macedonia's defense minister.
"Some politicians aiming to gain political points are playing the nationalist card. We call on citizens to stay cool, not succumb to provocations," Bujar Osmani, DUI spokesperson, told SETimes.
The right to protest is guaranteed, but the right to life and property are inalienable and no political interests may threaten these, according to Todor Petrov, president of the Macedonian World Congress.
"NGOs' moral persuasion, [threats] of legal consequences for breaking the law and the police's reserved and professional conduct bore fruit. After a tumultuous week, the situation is back to normal and Skopje is steeped in pre-election campaigning," Petrov told SETimes.