Garmen Residents to Protest in Sofia over Postponed Removal of Buildings
Residents of the municipality of Garmen, southwestern Bulgaria, are taking to the streets of the capital Sofia next Saturday to protest a move to call off the demolition of illegal Roma dwellings in their village.
Activists from the ethnic Bulgarian majority demand that the government should not comply with a Saturday ruling of a European court which reads the buildings, numbering around 120, should not be removed on Monday as planned.
The European Court of Human Rights Sofia asked Sofia to stop demolishing the illegal buildings until there is housing for vulnerable families.
Demonstrators, however, insist the state should not backtrack over pressure from "some institutions," the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) quotes Ivan Bayraktarov, one of the organizers of the protest action as saying.
"We are not against the Roma, we demand equal rights for everyone in Bulgaria," he added.
July 18 is celebrated as the birthday of Vasil Levski, Bulgaria's national hero.
Tensions have been mounting in the village of Garmen since May, when protests erupted after Bulgarians and members of the Roma community clashed over loud music coming from the Roma neighborhood of Kremikovtsi.
Subsequent inspections showed that some 124 dwellings, which had been set up years earlier with the agreement then mayor Ahmed Bashev, had been illegally built. Ethnic Bulgarians maintain that the law should be equally applied to the Roma just as it is to Bulgarians.
However, neither the government nor local authorities have been able to decide where the inhabitants of those dwellings will go after their houses are removed.
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