Sunday, July 29, 2007


Bulgaria had the dubious honour to be mentioned in the Yahoo! news for its wildfires reported by AFP (Firefighters struggle to contain blazes in south Europe):
"Firefighters backed by helicopters struggled Sunday to douse major forest fires across southern Europe as special prayers were held in Romania for an end to a deadly heatwave searing the continent. Firefighters staged an uphill battle to extinguish the flames which have ravaged forests in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, as well as Spain's Canary Islands off the western coast of Africa. In Bulgaria, where 23,000 hectares (nearly 57,000 acres) of woodland have been burned in the scorching temperatures of the past week, fires continued to rage in the south and centre.
The region around Chepelare was on high alert amid warnings that the 10th century monastery of Rila -- which has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO -- could be in danger.
Bulgarian police said they have now arrested 20 people on suspicion of starting the forest fires."
I haven't seen wildfires first hand, but I feel the unprecedented heat wave. Temperatures keep at Celsium 35-40 for days. Even nights bring no cool air. The baby doesn't sleep well, often wakes up, screams and cries. In Rasnik, where we have spent most of the last two weeks, the small river has dried out. The pair of storks that made me so happy by returning to the nest ( aren't seen there anymore. I've spotted them only once, in flight. My guess is that after the river has dried, they don't find enough food around it and have moved. They have no young, so nothing binds them to the nest. Unfortunately, even if a species isn't directly attacked by humans, it is often driven out of a territory by habitat destruction, usually also brought about by humans.
Every summer in Bulgaria has several continuous very hot days, usually at the end of July or the beginning of August. But this year these days began too early, lasted for too long and weathermen warn us that more are to come. I don't remember such a summer. Neither does any other person I've talked about that, no matter how old.

Bulgarian medics freed, return from Libya

The ordeal of Bulgarian medics convicted of infecting Libyan children with AIDS (my last post on the subject is at is over. First, their death sentences were overturned and replaced with life imprisonment. This was linked to agreements with EU guaranteeing treatment for the infected children, compensations for their families and funding an AIDS hospital in Libya. Then, after visits by the French presidential couple, Libya allowed the five nurses and two doctors to be transferred to Bulgaria to serve their life sentences here, as an agreement for judicial help between Libya and Bulgaria allows. Then, as our law allows, the Bulgarian president Parvanov pardoned them. The act of pardoning was issued swiftly and read right at the airport.
I hope the medics will be able to recover from what they had to endure and go on with their lives, though of course nobody can give them back the lost years or compensate for their suffering.
The Palestinian doctor could benefit from the same track to freedom because he had been granted Bulgarian citizenship. So here the Bulgarian state, generally not a very admirable one, did the right thing and followed the principle of leaving nobody behind. Dr. Hajuj will likely later move to the Netherlands, where his family resides. But anyway, he has his own state now and this state is Bulgaria.
As a friend of mine said, "Thanks to God and to all who did what was necessary for the rescue of those people." I would add my special thanks to all Libyans who defended them or at least doubted the official version about their guilt.
Most people in Libya seem outraged by the release (though, as far as I know, there have been no riots). I think that those who still believe in the medics' guilt are unlikely to change their opinions ever in the future, no matter what evidence is presented to them. I know Bulgarians who still think that the victims of the People's Court in 1944-45 were guilty.
Many non-Libyan Arabs believe in our people's guilt, similarly to most Libyans but without the same excuses. Now, because the children's families have received money (see above), Libyans are accused for being child sellers! Let me quote AngloLibyan's post The Democratic Arab World!: "The majority attacked the Libyan people for accepting the money to release the medics, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I see comments from Saudis, Egyptians and other Arabs saying that the victims families sold their own children, it makes you think that Egypt and Saudi Arabia are such democratic countries that the government can never force them to accept anything!!!".
I commented, "We Bulgarians often say that there are no devils around our pool of boiling water in Hell. I.e. devils keep guard by other nations' pools because occasionally some sinner manages to crawl out and a devil is needed to throw him back into the boiling pool; but this is not needed for the Bulgarians, because as soon as one of them tries to crawl out, the others pull him back themselves. You guess we have this saying because we, unfortunately, are inclined to put each other into trouble rather than helping each other. But I think this applies to the pan-Arab "nation", too. Every time when an Arab nation tries to make something good for itself, other Arab nations will surely try to pull it backwards. Misery is easier to endure if you have company."
I hadn't expected that the HIV trial would become, among other things, an illustration of the merits of pan-Arabism!

Monday, July 23, 2007

After the murder

On July 17, a Swedish tourist (24) was beaten to death by guards of a disco in the Black Sea resort town of Nesebar. The murder happened in front of policemen who remained idle. The guards themselves were former policemen. The disco owner Venelin Tashev, member of the Nesebar municipality, said he stood behind his employees. The case became known because an eyewitness made a video of the murder with his cell phone camera and gave it to the BTV channel for broadcasting.
The direct murderers are being investigated for manslaughter only and the by-standing policemen will receive only disciplinary punishments (i.e. in the worst case, they will be fired). The first prosecutor in charge of the case "refused the monitor the case, saying that some of the guards at the pub, where the violent scandal unfolded, are former policemen" ( The murdered young man was of Iraqi origin - so was racism involved as well?
You can see a fragment of the video at It shows guards jumping on the victim's head. Children, pregnant women and all people susceptible to shock-induced health problems are strongly advised not to view it. In fact, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. I agree with AngloLibyan that watching videotaped murders on the Web isn't a very good idea (
You would ask, then why put a link to this video?
Because other bloggers who uploaded or linked the video before me received the following threat in anonymous comments (source: Simion Pateev's blog,, translation by me):
"You seem to me an intelligent young man, which means that you shouldn't occupy yourself with stupid things but have fun, like all young people. Seeking sensations is a dangerous sport sometimes, life is also dangerous. Incidents happen, relations and friends are killed. You understand me well, I suppose. It is evident that you are intelligent and will reconsider some things."
I don't know who is behind the threatening comments but it is significant that the police still call the murder "incident" and, while letting murderers do their business, already have a history of intimidating bloggers (see previous post) and writing anonymous comments against the same bloggers (see here the anonymous comment posted on July 14th at 22:15 - it was reported to come from a police department). So if our police want the public trust, they should confront the mutra killers and guarantee freedom of speech, rather than attack it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Bulgarian police intimidating a blogger

Michel Bozgounov has a blog at (in Bulgarian) and (in English). He has been active in the campaign to save Strandja mountain mentioned in my previous post ( Last week, Michel was called by the police and officially warned about his blogging. Here is the story in his own words (from

"The statute of national park of mountain Strandja was about to be changed so that some companies to be able to build big resorts and hotel chains there...
I felt involved as I care about the nature in my country, Bulgaria, and because this subject is important for me, too, I started to blog about it, using information from all around the blogosphere – copying it & quoting it.
I also went personally on some of the protests, made photos and posted them on my blog. I also posted a couple of reportages, including my comments on the “Strandja” case and on the ongoing peaceful protests.
I never thought this could be something illegal...
Last week I received summons to visit the Sofia Metropolitan Police Department... There they asked me about my website (my blog) and about the Strandja protests. I had to write some explications and also signed a warning protocol, saying that I should not write in my blog anything that could call to disorderly conduct (like unofficial protests) and so on. I saw a line in the police documents, saying “the website must be investigated (watched constantly)”. I read on the top of the documents in front of me the name of the National Service for Combat against the Organized Crime, which indeed puzzled me...
Also there were printed sheets of paper from another blog of a guy, who wrote as well about the Strandja case, and he is also a journalist. On the stairs one of the police officers told me “in private” that I should be more careful what I am writing about in future, because journalists have a better defense against possible prosecution and I am just an ordinary person, an independent blogger.
That was the story in short. I had the feeling that it’s somehow strange that our police and also the National Service for Combat against the Organized Crime are so busy with investigating people like me, while there are so many criminals out there...
I decided to tell the story on my blog and I did it. But I wasn’t prepared for the avalanche of comments and people feeling concerned by this precedent, because the whole blogosphere felt that this as a strike against the free speech in the virtual world in Bulgaria. Now my only wish is all of this noise to end, but alas.
I said “no” to some media (a lot of reporters wanted to interview me), because I didn’t want to became a media star... I agreed for a short appearance in a morning broadcast on the Bulgarian National TV (, just to show that I am not “virtual”, but a real person...
Michel, free blogger"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Strandja mountain in danger

Strandja (also spelled Strandzha) is a mountain in South-East Bulgaria. It is sparsely populated and so its wild beauty is preserved. It is home to many wild plant and animal species, a number of them endangered. The above photos are from Wikipedia. In 1995, the Strandja Nature Park was founded. Including the central part of the mountain, it became the largest protected area in Bulgaria.
However, the park and hence the natural ecosystem of the mountain are in grave danger now because of the greedy people rushing to build over every square centimeter of our Black Sea coast (I have an earlier post about this madness at The quote below is from

Bulgaria's wilderness areas under threat from property investors
By Diana Simeonova, AFP - Sunday, July 8
SOFIA (AFP) - Bulgaria's wilderness areas, among the largest in Europe, are threatened by property investors who use legal loopholes to contest the territories' protected status to build holiday flats.
Last week, Bulgaria's Supreme Administrative Court stripped the protected status from the country's largest nature area, Strandzha, which spreads over 116,100 hectares (286,890 acres) in the southeast of the country.
The court ruled in favour of a major property investor, Krash 2000, which operates in the southern Black Sea region, one of the few areas untouched by the construction boom along the coastline.
Krash 2000 had sold some 90 holiday apartments in its "Golden Pearl" complex in the village of Varvara before local environment authorities froze construction last year.
A 1995 law regulating Strandzha's special status bans massive construction in the area, but Krash 2000 succeeded in having the law nullified in court by claiming it did not set clear boundaries for the protected territory.
Last year, another wild spot on the Black Sea -- the Kamchia river estuary north of Strandzha -- was similarly stripped of its protected status by a holiday resort investor.
Environmental watchdogs have warned that over half of Bulgaria's protected wilderness areas are susceptible to the same claim as their boundaries are only vaguely defined by law.
"The court gave Strandzha to the mafia," political analyst Evgeniy Daynov said in Dnevnik newspaper Thursday.
Daynov was among some 500 protestors who demonstrated in Sofia last week to protest the court's decision.
The protestors gathered suddenly, briefly blocking traffic on major crossroads and staging a lie-in in a central square, booing police and carrying banners reading "For a concrete-free Strandzha" and "Strandzha is not for sale."
On Monday, 35 demonstrators were arrested. Interior Minister Rumen Petkov said he would be "uncompromising" in dealing with such unauthorized gatherings.
But the protests seem to have worked as Environment Minister Dzhevdet Chakarov told journalists Thursday that the government would definitely appeal the Strandzha court ruling and fight to win back the nature area's protected status...
Bulgaria has one of the best preserved nature habitats and largest wild animal populations in Europe, including thousands of brown bears and wolves.

You can see photos from the protest at (Update: I am including here three photos from the linked post.) I haven't taken part in this protest. Although other mothers of young children attended (as a photo shows), I am reluctant to bring my babies to rallies of any kind, especially ones where people are very likely to be arrested or beaten.

You can sign an online petition to save Strandja - for Bulgarians at, for others at (the latter site also includes more details about the case in English). However, I wonder who will read the petitions. I think it is more important to give the case maximum publicity. If you have a blog, you could consider mentioning Strandja. It will be even better if you have connections to "official" media, environmental organizations or government. I hope that foreign pressure, if intensive enough, will stop Bulgaria from the folly of destroying its own nature