Friday, November 19, 2010

Eid changes to my blogroll

This year, Nov. 16 was Eid al-Adha (Kurban bayryam) - the Festival of Sacrifice, one of the most imp0rtant Muslim holidays. Celebrations often last for a week. Right now, I had to have a practical with a group of students from Turkey, but we agreed to postpone it, because all of them wanted to be home with Mommy and Daddy. So I have some extra free time, for which I shall of course pay later. I decided to spend it updating my link pages and deleting some of the Islamophobic links, undoubtedly a good way for an infidel to mark Eid.
I wish to state immediately that nobody has pressed me to do this. My anti-Islamic writings and links have not drawn any offline hostile action, which I attribute partly to the (still) very weak position of radical Islam in Bulgaria, and partly to the fact that nobody reads my blog :-). My opinion about Islam and Islamists has not changed, either. Why, then, have I decided to present (slightly) less Islamophobia? It was Esther, author of the Islam in Europe blog, who persuaded me. On Feb. 22, she wrote a post titled Opinion: Why don't the Jews join us. Let me give a part of it:

"An orthodox Jewish reader once asked me why Islam-critics criticize EVERYTHING about Islam. Why do they criticize the religious aspects and don't just focus on violent Islamic ideology?
Keep this question in mind as you read this.
A recent article in The Daily Telegraph brings a story which is repeated in various ways across Europe. Malmö, Sweden, is the city with one of the highest proportion of Muslim residents, and its small Jewish community is fleeing an increase in Muslim antisemitic attacks.Various anti-Islam, Islam-critical, counter-Jihad etc blogs and activists expect Jews to stand with them against the Muslims. But Jews don't always do so, and, sometimes, for good reason.
I do not deny the threat of Muslim antisemitism. But why put the Jews on the spot? When anti-Islam protesters wave Israeli flags, they might want to show that they're not antisemitic. They might want to make the Muslims mad. But what they're actually doing is focusing the hatred at the Jews. The Jews are a tiny minority in Europe, and one which has been through quite a lot. Why put them on the spot more than anybody else, and certainly more than any other endangered minority?"

I have never made it a secret that a great part of my Islamophobia is due to the anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitudes and actions of too many Muslims. (I have been occasionally blamed by hostile readers that I have sold myself to "my Jewish masters", and privately asked by friendly readers whether I am a Jew myself.) And now, Esther is asking those who really take the plight of Jews to heart not to be too Islamophobic. I am not sure whether she is right here, but I think she has considered this problem thoroughly and understands it much better than me, and I prefer to trust her.
So I deleted from my blogroll the links to two old posts: My Westerner's demands to Muslims and An opinion poll for Arab readers (the latter was useless anyway, because Arab readers were not giving their opinions).
I also opened from my Control Panel the Favourite Sites pages of my Web site (here in English, here in Bulgarian) and successfully changed them - the first change I am introducing myself to my brand new domain. If you are learning to create and edit Web pages and struggling with HTML the way a pig struggles with a pumpkin, what would you begin with? The easiest thing, of course. And what is the easiest type of change? Correctly, deletion. So I removed the link to FrontPage Magazine (it still remains in my blogroll), plus two links to sites with images of Prophet Mohamed: Zombietime's Mohammed Image Archive and the site muhammadcartoons dot com.
These links, plus the entire "Favourite Sites" page, were created in early 2006, in the midst of Danish cartoon crisis. Back then, it seemed to us that the very pillars of our civilization were collapsing. I am still far from sure that it is safe, but I think time is ripe for more long-term strategy and less impulsive actions. A nice example of impulsive action is the domain muhammadcartoons dot com, registered at the same time. Initially, the 12 cartoons were uploaded there. However, after the hot moment was gone, apparently nobody wished to devote his time and money to the tedious job of keeping a Web site. So the domain name expired and was released back to the ecosystem. Somebody snatched it and turned it into what I hope is a dating site, but may as well be a human trafficking tool. For that reason, I am not linking to it here, just showing enough of it to allow you check yourself. (Here, Muslim readers are allowed to gloat :-).) You see that it is a bad idea to register a domain, draw traffic to it and then leave it orphan - this can only benefit some shadowy and not too pretty figure. People should be more serious about the Web and not create and abandon sites at every whim.
If you want to see the (in)famous cartoons, I recommend the above linked Zombietime page, plus this American Daughter forum where Danish psychologists discuss the images. I was first directed to the former page by Freedom for Egyptians. I am sorry that she has stopped blogging; hopefully everything is OK with her.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My site is moving

My site, until now at, is moving to a new domain - (the English home page is at
If you have linked to it, please update your links.
I'll tell some other time the story of the site, and why I had to move it.

Friday, October 29, 2010


(Warning - long post.)

Photo shows Tiber river at evening.

From June 6 to 11, I attended the Cell Model Systems Summer school at Tor Vergata Research Establishment, Rome. It was great experience and I learned a lot about liposomes and other membrane models, cytotoxic membrane-permeabilizing peptides, new materials based on plasma technology as well as current concepts about the origin of life - all this quite interesting and useful for a teacher in a broad-spectrum biology course like me. I saw first-hand how liposomes and nanomaterials are prepared, and how the atomic force microscope works, about which I had only read in articles. I am very thankful to my professor who recommended me for the summer school, to the organizers who approved my application, to the lecturers, and to my fellow participants. I whole-heartedly recommend CMS to every young researcher or teacher in life sciences. I also keep warm memories of our late-afternoon tours in Rome and in the beautiful nearby town of Frascati where we were accomodated, at the excellent hotel Cacciani.
But this is just an introduction - the post, unfortunately, is centered on something else.
Back in the 1990s, Bulgaria was even more miserable than it is today. And even more depressing than the crude reality was the feeling of hopelessness, of a lacking future. The ability to see future where it actually isn't, to see open spaces and blue skies while looking at a brick wall, was a vital skill. Those who hadn't it had to emigrate or let misery crush their souls. Among them was my brother. He had a rare gift in math that he later developed into computing, he was a good musician (though this was not his favourite occupation), but he was completely unable to see dungeon walls as open spaces. So he wished to emigrate to a country with a future.
From the European countries, three were considered seriously as prospective new homes - Germany and Switzerland, where we had relatives, and Italy, where my brother (sometimes accompanied by my sister in-law) traveled several times for temporary work with a student orchestra. Switzerland was most hostile to Eastern Europeans and was soon cancelled as a realistic possibility. My brother travelled to Germany to apply for a job, but without success. We had there a first cousin married to a German who owned small but successful business. This man said, "If you had a permit to work in Germany, I could give you a job at my shop. But I cannot obtain this permit for you - according to our laws, I have to prove that I cannot find a German to do the job, and this is impossible."
My brother actually liked Italy most because, as he said, the Southern temperament of Italians was making them similar to Bulgarians. A short Italian dictionary and a booklet titled Buon giorno - How to learn Italian in 10 days are still kept somewhere at my mother's library. But there, again, the attempt was unsuccessful. What to do - Western Europeans in those years were shutting us Eastern Europeans out as if we were leprosy-infected.
At the end of 1990s, my sister in-law and my brother obtained immigrant visas for the USA and settled there. He worked at days and learned English and computer science at night, then enrolled to study at a local college, then became computer programmer at the same college. He fulfilled the American dream... as more than one person said at his funeral ceremony.
You have surely read about parallel worlds - that when reality faces an alternative, it goes both ways, splitting into two. As a description of the physical world, parallel worlds are bullshit, but they excellently reflect the attempts of our mind to protect itself by shielding itself from unacceptable reality. The "what if" magical thinking. I still have a strong feeling about parallel worlds, and the impression that I have wandered into the wrong one that is not truly real. On Monday, March 22 I met my mother and we discussed the menu for the Friday dinner, when my family had to visit her. I asked her to fry meatballs, and we were very happy. This last happy day was in fact undeserved, because my brother was already dead - we just did not know it yet. Then on Friday, I felt trapped in a parallel world, in a wrong reality. Why was I in my home, when I had to be at my mother's apartment, eating meatballs? My mother of course had not cooked meatballs - she had flown to America the previous day to attend her son's funeral.
I had a similar feeling the night of June 6th when I arrived to Rome. The organizers of the summer school had sent a shuttle car to pick me and an Italian participant from the airport. As we travelled, my Italian colleague chatted with the driver. I was silently watching the landscape and I imagined that the shuttle car was actually sent by my brother and sister in-law, who were living in Italy. At one moment, the driver asked me in English whether I spoke any Italian. I said no, he jokingly asked why not, and I answered that I had no relations in Italy. As if reading my thoughts, he said, "Now is a very nice time to have relations."
In the next days, the summer school and the majesty of this great city distracted me and helped my recovery, well described by some psychologist as "adaptation to a world from which one's loved one is missing." Rome, Frascati, Italy are names that evoke good memories in me. Yet at the same time Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the entire "old Europe" carry for me the cold touch of the rejection. Because they did not accept my brother, that is, they were not here when I truly needed them. If he had gone to Italy or Germany, his life would not have ended so early. Or, at the very least, I would have seen him more often during these last years, and I would attend his funeral.
I have never want to emigrate myself - in fact, I spent most of my adult life struggling against other people urging me to emigrate, for my own good. But the visa refusals obtained by my loved ones scarred me with a rejection trauma without which I would be another (and almost certainly better) person. In particular, it made me more xenophobic than I would have been otherwise. Of course many immigrants are wonderful people and gain to old Europe, as would be my brother if he had been accepted. However, there are also the other kind of immigrants (let's not start a topic about freedom of speech, films, cartoons and so on). And I think I would not rant so much against multicultural Europe if I were not asking myself why such and such people have been allowed into Europe and my brother was rejected.
It is no use to try and explain down the world to me by reason. You need not mention that many immigrants are such and such because "old Europeans" wanted illiterate guest workers to clean their toilets for no money, rather than educated immigrants with Western mentality to join them as equals. My reason knows it perfectly but the irrational core of me refuses to come to terms with it. It is also of no use to mention that today Bulgarians, or at least white Christian Bulgarians, can move to any European country of their choice. In my world, now is just too late. This is my experience, and I give it absolute importance. For other people, especially for younger people who do not clearly remember the 1990s, my experience will be irrelevant. So, with rare exceptions such as this post, I'll keep it to myself, like a gem too precious to be appreciated by the populace. Value your experience, even if nobody else does. For good or for bad, it makes you who you are.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arevik is free

This is old news, but still worth reporting.

In my April 20 post Help Arevik: innocent, pregnant, imprisoned, I wrote about young Armenian woman Arevik Shmavonyan, who wished to reunite with her beloved (and father of her child) David in Bulgaria but was instead detained at Busmanci for overstaying her visa.

On July 22, Arevik was released (hattip Svetla Encheva). Svetla made and published in Facebook some beautiful photos, one of which I cropped and posted above.
I hope everything is all right with Arevik, David and their baby. According to my calculations, s/he must already have been born, but I cannot find any information about this.
Update: On Nov. 17, Arevik gave birth to a boy who will be named Erik. Thanks to Svetla for keeping us informed.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Choice of profession

Generally, a person has to choose two important things in his life: a profession and a partner.
With the exception of traditional cultures where parents arrange marriages of their children, we choose our partners freely when we are already conscious adults. This doesn't mean that we are always wise and successful in this task. We actually seem to be even less wise and successful than the parents in traditional cultures. Very often we make serious mistakes and trap ourselves in short-lived or unhappy marriages. But at least the decision has been only ours.
Things are different with profession - at least in poor countries. The decision to acquire one or another profession has to be made in the teen years, if not earlier. At this tender age, it is heavily influenced by parents and other family members. And if the young person later wants to change his profession, it comes at a terribly high cost, or is not possible at all.
The written and unwritten laws of society are based on the working hypothesis that parents wish the best for their children. Unfortunately, too often this is not the case. And even when parents try their best, they are likely to make their child unhappy. They burden him with their own fulfilled and unfulfilled desires and ambitions, while neglecting or even fighting his wishes, gifts and inclinations. Just to give an example, here at the Medical University every year we have a legion of children of doctors, dentists and pharmacists, and a considerable part of these students lack the abilities needed for the chosen profession and/or the true wish to practice it. Their parents have pushed them into the medical profession, as commanders push their soldiers into battle.
Because this phenomenon remains in the private sphere of our life, the enormous damages inflicted by it are not very visible and the problem is not discussed in public. But it is real. Happily, economic progress brings spontaneous improvement. I mean, in a prosperous society young people are more empowered and independent and less likely to let their lives be ruined this way. And they have a second chance because they can earn the resources needed to change profession, even if it means new university study. So a mistake made early in life, either by themselves or by their parents, does not mean being directed into a one-way tunnel.
An improvement of the educational system would also help. I am against too early specialization which deprives the student from knowledges and skills in many area. Education must be broad and multi-disciplinary until the end of secondary school. And if some schools issue diplomas that are not accepted by universities, their graduates must be given the chance to obtain the needed certificate by some sort of exam.
Meanwhile, I wish to quote a man unknown to me but apparently a wise and good father. Talking to his teenage son about the choice of profession, he said, "This is very important for you and I do not wish to interfere with your decision. But please keep in mind that whatever you choose, you are expected to be doing it for 40 years to come, so it must be a thing you like doing."

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

All through the night

This post is a greeting to all who are having hard times, and particularly to one of my dearest people for whom I know that principally reads my blog (though I am not sure whether she is reading it right now).
The quoted verses are from the old Welsh song All Through the Night.

"Deep the silence round us spreading,
All through the night;
Dark the path that we are treading,
All through the night...
Though our hearts be wrapt in sorrow,
From the hope of dawn we borrow
Promise of a glad tomorrow,
All through the night."

The entire song is here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Economic crisis? Take from disabled children

In my previous post Bulgarian children with cerebral palsy to be deprived of therapy, I wrote how the best Bulgarian facility for treatment of children with cerebral palsy and heart defects will be shut down (or deprived of funding, which is effectively the same thing). This decision was justified by reminding that "it is economic crisis now". An official, talking to a mother, said in plain text that "there is no profit from the children, on the contrary - there is loss".
A week ago, an American father of an autistic child blogging as Club 166 wrote a disturbingly similar post titled An Inconvenient Truth. Here are quotes from it:

"Unfortunately, one of the things that has become obvious to me over the years is that the general public doesn't have a clue what it's like to raise a special needs kid, has no real desire to know what it takes, and when times are the least bit tough the public is especially willing to throw our kids under the bus if it will help their own situation in any way. This is true, whether it's a smaller, relatively well off district like the one we live in, or a large one such as Los Angeles... When L.A. schools Superintendant Ramon C. Cortines was talking about a school for the blind in the LA Unified School district he recently said,
"Some of those are very, very severe cases, but you have to look at it in perspective. When you fund some of the special ed things, you're taking from regular kids."

Aside from it being blatantly against the law for economic considerations to be driving who gets what services, there is the whole "attitude" thing... The attitude that while "regular" education is a right in this country, that special education is a privilege that can be easily revoked at the first sign of money trouble. The attitude that my kid (and millions like him) just aren't worth it.
...Such attitudes are not limited to uneducated or poor people. Indeed, my personal feeling is that such attitudes get worse, the higher up the socioeconomic scale one is on. It doesn't matter what overall political viewpoint you hold. Platitudes regarding equality rapidly fall apart when it comes to spending a dime on special needs education instead of the football team..."

The problem seems to be universal. I hope, however, that none of my readers will fall into the trap of fallacies common in Bulgaria and other backward countries - namely, that any phenomenon existing in a developed country is necessarily a nice thing. Or if it is not nice, then it is such a colossal problem that it is impossible to find a local solution and we should not even bother to try.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Bulgarian children with cerebral palsy to be deprived of therapy

Today is June 1, marked in many countries as Children's Day. It is devoted to all children - not only to those who win A grades and sport races without much effort and allow Mommy to make a career, but also to children with disabilities. So little is done for them in Bulgaria, and even that little is taken away when government wants to tighten its budget. The Sanatorium (therapy facility) for children with cerebral palsy in the town of Bankya near Sofia is being closed down. Below I am translating a letter of a mother published by two other bloggers - Lyd and Yana. The information in it is confirmed also by the Darina's memorial site and by a group of parents and activists starting a petition to save the facility.
You can sign the petition here. The top line (field in grey) is for your full name. Next two lines are for your city and country. The large field is for your comment and is optional. Below you must write your e-mail and the anti-spam code and press the button "подпиши" (sign). You will soon receive an e-mail with a link you must click to confirm your signature. It is too complicated indeed, and I doubt how efficient such petitions are. I advise you to do whatever else comes to your mind - give publicity to the case, write directly to Bulgarian and EU institutions etc. Because nothing ever improves in Bulgaria without foreign pressure.

Now, the letter of Daniela Peneva:

"Dear readers, I am a mother whose son has cerebral palsy. The only treatment for him is the physical and occupational therapy he has received for 6 years at the Children's Sanatorium (Therapy facility) in the town of Bankya. Under the care of the professionals working there my son already can walk on his own and becomes more independent every day. And he is not the only case - the therapy at the Bankya Sanatorium has helped many children to improve and start walking.
Unfortunately, the Sanatorium will no longer be a place for therapy of children. It has been the only facility in Bulgaria for therapy of children with heart problems. And the children with other problems will be redirected to other facilities where the therapy is of lower quality and gives poorer results. Therefore, closing down the Bankya facility is a clear violation of the rights of our children under national law and the UN Convention...
8 years ago, the Bankya Sanatorium was thoroughly renovated by a German foundation (Kaiser's Fund). Appropriate equipment for children's therapy was bought... The problems began 4 years ago when the Sanatorium was closed for first time during the winter (presumably to spare the money needed for heating - M.M.). Unheated and unused, it began to deteriorate. This situation continued for 3 years. Then, last year the health minister changed the affiliation of the Sanatorium... Two months later, in October (2009), the Sanatorium was closed and the personnel was given unpaid leave until June 1, 2010. We, the children's parents, all awaited and planned the therapy for June.
On April 16, 2010 I called the director responsible for therapy facilities and asked him when the Sanatorium would be reopened so that we could enlist our children for therapy. They answered me that it is economic crisis now and the Sanatorium would not be a facility for treating children anymore. There said that there are two Sanatoria for children in Bulgaria (the other one is in the town of Momin Prohod) and it is impossible to sustain both because there is no profit from the children, on the contrary - there is loss (emphasis mine - M.M.) Because of the long period when the Sanatorium was closed, some professionals have left and have not been replaced. The officials did not tell me what purpose the building would serve in the future, but said that surely it would no longer be used for children's therapy...
Because my son has cerebral palsy and not a heart problem, there are still some facilities where he can receive treatment and somebody would say that I should bring him there. We have tried other facilities but no one was as good as the Bankya Sanatorium. Professionals there have real attitude to the children, their parents and the problems. They worked in order to help, and achieved results. Their therapy spared surgery to some children - 2 operations to my son alone. Also, they trained parents how to work with their children at home, because children need daily therapy and the Health Fund pays only for 10 days.
These are children, human beings. We have not abandoned them in care homes, although this has been suggested to many of us. On the contrary, we try to make our children as independent as possible... For that purpose, we need high-quality therapy and we insist on it!
The building of the Sanatorium has been donated under the condition that it would be used for children's therapy.
We, the parents of children treated at the Bankya Sanatorium and several disability rights organizations, are starting a campaign to save this therapy facility. We are asking for your support! Help the children!"

Update from June 3: Yana reports that the Sanatorium will be reopened these days but only for several months because it will not be heated. Guess how many therapists will remain on "payroll" to survive with 3-4 monthly salaries per year. The other bad news is that no contract with the Health Fund has been signed for 2010, which means that families will have to pay all therapies - 40-50 leva (EUR 20-25) per day. I call this adding insult to injury, because my net salary, which is above the average for Bulgaria, is about EUR 450, and most of the mothers of these disabled children stay at home in order to care for them. Forcing them to pay for therapy is a crime. My guess is that authorities are pretending to keep the Sanatorium open, maybe because of the outcry, and will close it the minute public opinion looks somewhere else. And meanwhile they are imposing outrageous conditions on families of children treated at the Sanatorium, and on the personnel.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Monster mosque to be built next to Ground Zero

(The expression in the title borrowed from Atlas Shrugs blog.)
First, I am copy-pasting below most of the article Plan for mosque near World Trade Center site moves ahead, by Joe Jackson & Bill Hutchinson, published earlier this month in NY Daily News, but for the moment just follow the link and read.

"A proposal to build a mosque steps from Ground Zero received the support of a downtown committee despite some loved ones of 9/11 victims finding it offensive.
The 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center was unanimously endorsed by the 12-member Community Board 1's financial district committee.
The $100 million project, called the Cordoba House, is proposed for the old
Burlington Coat Factory... just two blocks from the World Trade Center site.
"I think it will be a wonderful asset to the community," said committee
Chairman Ro Sheffe.
Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, who helped found the Cordoba Initiative following the 9/11 attacks, said the project is intended to foster better relations between the West and Muslims...
Daisy Khan, executive director of the
American Society for Muslim Advancement and Cordoba Initiative board member, said the project has received little opposition.
"Whatever concerns anybody has, we have to make sure to educate them that we are an asset to the community," Khan said.
Khan said her group hopes construction on the project will begin by the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Once built, 1,000 to 2,000 Muslims are expected to pray at the mosque every Friday, she said.
No one at last night's meeting protested the project. But some 9/11 families said they found the proposal offensive because the terrorists who launched the attacks were Muslim.
"I realize it's not all of them, but I don't want to have to go down to a memorial where my son died on 9/11 and look at a mosque," said retired
FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches - whose son Jim, a firefighter, was killed on 9/11.
"If you ask me, it's a religion of hate," said Riches, who did not attend last night's meeting.
Rosemary Cain of
Massapequa, L.I., whose son, Firefighter George Cain, 35, was killed in the 2001 attacks, called the project a "slap in the face."
"I think it's despicable. That's sacred ground," said
Cain, who also did not attend the meeting.
"How could anybody give them permission to build a mosque there? It tarnishes the area

Frankly, I find it unbelievable. After some Muslims sacrificed their lives in order to destroy the Twin Towers together with the people inside, now other Muslims are keen to build a giant mosque almost on the cleared spot. As I wrote in my post about Samir Kuntar two years ago, "if we remove the fragile frame of civilization, what remains from the human? A Darwinian creature who will happily kill other people's children in order to make more space for his own progeny."
I am only slightly surprised that Muslims have come with such an idea. It is just the umpteenth piece of evidence about the nature of Islam. I am, however, surprised that the city is giving green light to this insanity.
The same NY Daily News page offers an opinion poll:

"Do you think it is appropriate to construct a mosque near Ground Zero?
- Yes, it will encourage tolerance.
- No, if the 9/11 victims' families are opposed.
- I'm not sure."

I cannot take part in such an opinion poll; I can just wonder at its authors' dhimmitude and stupidity. The first symptom of these is their priority of problems - regarding the intolerance to Islam as a more important problem than the deaths and suffering caused by Islam at Ground Zero and elsewhere. Following the same logic, we should build Nazi and Communist propaganda centers near the former extermination camps in order to encourage tolerance to these doctrines.
Second, I find it wrong beyond description that opposition to the plan is justified not with the need to regard Islam as the doctrine of supremacy, oppression and genocide it is, but with political correctness - not to hurt the feelings of 9/11 victims' families. So, if the Islamists had killed the whole families, there would be no problem at all, right?
I am outraged because the grieving relatives, instead of being allowed to devote themselves to the memory of their loved ones and the challenges of life, are now forced to fight against the trivialization of their loss and the planned building of an actual memorial to the murderers. We have observed the same in Bulgaria and other former Communist countries - the pressure put on the surviving victims of the regime, and on the relatives of dead ones, to put their hard feelings aside and embrace the Communists for the sake of "peace" and "reconciliation". It was wrong here, and it is wrong in New York now.
Another similarity is that Communists filled East-European cities with their landmarks and actively struggled for their preservation, because they knew the importance of architectural environment for shaping the collective mind. Russia successfully pressed Bulgaria to preserve the numerous memorials to Soviet occupiers. When a landmark of evil is standing, growing young people walk in its shadow and think, "How powerful they are - to kill so many of us, to do us so much evil and still to make us keep their monuments. We must always give them what they want, then they probably will leave us alive." The same is planned to happen in New York.
Disclaimer: I do not advocate any action against Muslims. I am against Islam, not against Muslims, as I am against AIDS, not against AIDS-infected people. And I do not like the fact that I feel obliged to include such a disclaimer. When I write against Nazism or Communism, I do not feel obliged to disclaim that I do not advocate any action against individual supporters of these doctrines.

Update from May 27: I voted with "no" in the above mentioned opinion poll, mainly to see the results. They are: 68% "yes", 31% "no", 2% "not sure".

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bulgarian authorities outlaw innocent immigrant

In my April 20 post, I wrote about candidate immigrant Arevik who came from Armenia to Bulgaria to unite with her boyfriend David but ended up imprisoned in the Busmanci detention facility. Arevik has been there already for 2 months, about to complete the crucial 1st trimester of her pregnancy. The personnel reportedly treats her well, but conditions are not suitable for a woman with a difficult pregnancy, and the mere fact of being imprisoned has its toll. This post will be about David Arutyunyan, Arevik's beloved and father of their unplanned but wanted and cherished baby. It is based mostly on Lyd's May 13 post and this post by David himself in a Bulgarian law forum, but the information is confirmed by other numerous sources.
Some readers coming from traditional cultures with strict views on family may say that David and Arevik are irresponsible people because they have conceived a child without being married. I wish to clarify immediately that they wish very much to marry but cannot because David has no identity papers, and in the 21st century it is impossible to marry without such papers. It is also impossible to study, work, or have property. By refusing to issue him ID papers, Bulgarian state (with the help of Armenian state) has made him a non-person.
When somebody is in such a difficult situation, people tend to think that he is to be blamed for it, that he has made something wrong. David, now 24, was only 6 when his family moved from Armenia to Bulgaria. They wished to remain but had difficulties because the residence fee of 1000 lv. per person was too high for them. They protested and even made a hunger strike. I think they were not right - after they were not refugees but candidate immigrants, they had to pay what Bulgarian law prescribed without grumbling or look for another country offering better conditions. Anyway, even if the actions of David's parents had annoyed Bulgarian authorities, no civilized government would revenge against a young child for his parents's deeds.
David went to primary school, which is mandatory under Bulgarian law. When he was 14, Bulgarian authorities finally allowed his family to obtain Bulgarian ID papers, provided that Armenian authorities would also do their part of the paperwork and give them a go-ahead. So David's parents obtained ID documents for themselves and for their daughter (David's sister). However, Armenian authorities refused to give a go-ahead for David because, according to them, he had to return to Armenia to serve 3 years in the army. David of course did not wish to return to a country which was just a vague memory to him. Meanwhile, he was denied permission to study in secondary school. Secondary education is not mandatory in Bulgaria and school authorities said that they "did not know" who David was. (Bulgarian citizens first obtain ID card at that age, 14. In my post about Busmanci, a young candidate immigrant from Nigeria named Olatodun Ibitui is mentioned. He is almost in the same situation as David, having lived in Bulgaria since age 5 but not allowed to study in secondary school. Now he is job-seeking but, despite being very intelligent, he will have giant difficulties. Labour market in present-day Bulgaria kicks back people without high school diplomas.)
To this day, David is living outlawed, his only ID paper being his Armenian birth certificate. He cannot obtain a work permit, so he just helps his parents in their family business. Several times per year, David is subpoenated to the police department in his town of Montana. They tell him that he is living here illegally and must leave his family's home and Bulgaria. They are also consistently trying to obtain a deportation order for him.
On May 5, David was ordered to go to the police department again. Natasha Filipova, head of the local Migration service of the police, gave him to sign a document in Armenian. David refused to sign a text written in a language he does not speak. When his parents came to translate the document, it turned out to be an application by David to be allowed to go to Armenia. The Armenian ambassador declared that this document had not been prepared by the Embassy. Apparently some bright head at the Montana police department has written it and got it translated to Armenian at taxpayers' expense in order to press David to "request" his own deportation.
In an April 29 Mediapool article by Irina Nedeva titled Arevik and David - a love story between Montana, Erevan and Busmanci, the head of the Young Armenians' Charity Union Victor Baramov is quoted to say that his organization has many other examples of people without a legal status in Bulgaria despite having lived here for 20 or more years.
Our domestic civil society is weak and is only now awakening to this problem; but where are the EU institutions and international human rights organizations looking?
If you want to tell our Ministry of Interior and the Montana Police Department what you think about their treatment of David Arutyunyan, their contact details are given in my previous post Help Arevik - innocent, pregnant, imprisoned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Help Arevik: innocent, pregnant, imprisoned

Arevik with her beloved David (photo copied from Svetla Encheva's blog).

I know Arevik's story from Bulgarian bloggers Svetla Encheva (here and here) and Lyd (here and here).

Briefly, Arevik Shmavonyan is a young Armenian woman. 5 years ago, she met on Skype David Arutyunyan, a young man of Armenian origin living in the city of Montana, Bulgaria. They fell in love and about 3 months ago Arevik came to Bulgaria to unite with her beloved. They could not marry because Bulgarian bureaucracy refused to clear their paperwork, but started living together. After Arevik's 1-month visa expired, she obtained a permission to remain for additional 14 days. However, despite this permission she was sent to the infamous detention facility in the Sofia district of Busmanci, where refugees and candidate immigrants are kept indefinitely without clear reasons (I have blogged about this facility in my earlier post Prison by any other name).
In Busmanci, Arevik found out that she was pregnant. Her pregnancy is problematic, causing cyclic vomiting and severe eating and sleeping problems. Arevik has been in Busmanci already for one month, and for this time has been taken twice to hospital unconscious. Nevertheless, she is still kept there, in a room with about 10 other women and without adequate care. Although Arevik has done nothing wrong, her release is not in sight, and her life is in peril as well as the life of her unborn child.
I appeal to you to try to help Arevik. Svetla Encheva in her April 18 post gives a beautiful model letter citing appropriate quotes from Bulgarian and European legislature, as well as the addresses of the Montana Police Department whose orders have led to Arevik's imprisonment. I shall not translate the letter - knowing the English proficiency of our average law enforcer, I think a short note comprised of simple words would do a better job. In fact, I think that the police will be more impressed by the mere obtaining of messages from abroad written in English than by their text.
Here are two e-mail addresses of the Montana Police Department:, You can also fill this form. At the top line, you must select "MBP - област Монтана" (Montana Police Department). The lines below are, respectively, for your first name, family name, e-mail, postal address, subject of your message and then comes the field for the text of your message. You are also advised to send a paper letter at the following address:

Comissar Valeri Dimitrov
Police Department - Montana
2 Aleksander Stamboliiski Blvd
BG-3400 Montana

I also advise you to turn to the Ministry of Interior in the capital Sofia. Its contact form is here. The lines are (from top) for your first name, family name, address, telephone, e-mail and below is the field for the text of the message. The postal address is as follows:

Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov
Ministry of Interior
29, 6th of September Street
BG-1000 Sofia

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Rufinka": Bulgarian folk song about death in spring

One of the best known and beloved Bulgarian folk songs is Rufinka bolna legnala (Rufinka was lying ill), originated some 150-200 years ago in the Rhodopa mountain (although, similarly to other Rhodopean songs, it is very difficult to sing). It was created by Bulgarian Muslims and, as far as I know, is the only element of their culture incorporated in mainstream Bulgarian culture. Once I read an article about the background of the song. According to it, Rufie (informally Rufinka) was a real person, a girl from a well-to-do family. About age 20 and before getting married, she succumbed to a progressive fatal disease, probably tuberculosis. Before her death, she was asked what she was more sorry for - her wedding dress or the world. The historical Rufie reportedly answered, "For the dress, because I shall never put it on." However, the character of the song gives a different answer - see below.

The lyrics in Bulgarian (in the original dialect) can be found e.g. at this forum. The participant supplying the text writes, "This is perhaps the only folk song I truly admire and when I listen to it, everything in me bristles up." My opinion is similar. This song in a very simple way gives you the tragedy of being human, of having a self-aware spirit longing for existence but trapped within a mortal body. It is felt even more clearly because of the mentioned abundance of life in spring, and because Rufinka despite her religion does not seem to believe in afterlife.

Here is my (quite rude) attempt of translation:


Rufinka was lying ill / there in the high mountain.

No one was by her side / only her old mother.

She was telling Rufinka, / "Rufinka my dear daughter,

Are you sorry for your wedding dress, / your dress and your beloved?"

"My dear, my dear mother, / I am not sorry for my dress,

I am sorry for the world, / because spring has come now,

Everything's coming out of earth, / and I shall go into earth.

Mother, call Mizho's Fatma, / let her come, and I'll tell her

To marry my beloved, / to take my wedding dress.

Friday, April 09, 2010


I rarely publish photos of my loved ones, because of concerns about their privacy.
But now I just wish to share with you this charming document of happy life that was and will never be again.
The photo was taken about a year ago, presumably by my sister in-law who is absent from it.
Left to right: my late brother, I, his daughter, my sons and my husband.
"Let the memory live again."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Keep breathing

The text below is copied from the blog of a lady writing under the name "On the edge" - from her Feb 1, 2009 post Remembering to breathe. It is strange how different people are the same inside and feel the same.

"There have been times in my life when I have literally forgotten to breathe. I remember the first time it happened. I was 15 and the boy I had loved since I was 4 years old told me he was marrying... I can remember my heart stopped beating and I couldn't catch my breath for a minute. He broke my heart.
Then it happened again when the doctor told my sisters and me that our mother had colon cancer and would not live more than a year or two... She died just three short months later.
The day we got the lab reports back telling us our youngest son had HIV/AIDS, my head started to buzz and all I could think was no, it wasn't true. I had prayed so hard to Allah to make it not true. It couldn't be. There had to be some mistake in the lab work, but it was true.
When he died and they came to tell me, I was calm, but later after all business of the funeral was over, I would remember he was dead at odd moments. It would catch me off guard. I would stop breathing. The ache in my heart was so strong, it squashed all breath out of my lungs. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe off and on... The disbelief that my son was gone forever was almost more than I could bare.
I learned to get through these losses by taking one breath at a time. One minute, then two, pretty soon I was breathing whole blocks of time without reminding myself to keep inhaling and exhaling air. Amazing how resilient the spirit is when faced with the end of the world.
So, if this ever happens to you, just try to remember one breath at a time is all it takes to carry on with the business of life. One breath, then two, then three and soon it just happens on its own. Even if you wished it wouldn't ."

Thursday, April 01, 2010


On March 22, I lost my beloved brother George.
He died suddenly at age 41, leaving behind a wife and a 4-year-old daughter.
Please do not leave comments to this post.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bulgarian police intimidating a blogger, again

The title reminds my 2007 post Bulgarian police intimidating a blogger, and the two cases are distressingly similar. Now, however, we are not seeing the wide publicity and the blogger solidarity we saw in 2007. It seems that Bulgarians are in apathy after seeing in more and more detail the logical consequences of electing a cop to the position of Prime Minister, and after losing hope that EU would not tolerate a Third World situation in a member state. I learned about the present case from Svetla Encheva's blog.
The air of the Bulgarian city of Stara Zagora has been regularly polluted with high doses of sulphur dioxide for years. This pollution even has its own article in the Bulgarian Wikipedia. The presumed pollution sources are two large old-fashioned power stations located nearby. Some people, including blogger Genadi Mihaylov from Stara Zagora, also suspect a local military training square. Residents of the city have protested many times, to no avail.
Below, I am translating Genadi's Jan. 21 post Come to talk at the police station:

"'Hello, Mr. Mihaylov?'
'Yes, I am.'
'Good morning, I am calling you from the Stara Zagora Police Department.'
'I am calling you in relation to something that happened. Can you come to us to talk today?'
'Has something serious happened?'
'No, nothing, I just want to talk with you. When can you come here?
'In an hour or two, I suppose.'
When such a gentleman with extremely polite voice wakes you up, the wake-up is truly effective - like a laxative.
'Have you used Internet to announce the date of the protest?'
'Yes, in several Web forums.'
'And you have mentioned the word 'eggs'?'
'Yes, but I meant something entirely different. I have not appealed to anybody to spit on the minister...'
'This turned out to be a media speculation... You have attended the (Jan.) 18 protest (for clean air), haven't you?'
'Yes, I have.'
'And you haven't thrown eggs, have you?'
'No, I haven't.'
'And you do not know who has?'
'I only heard about it later from the news. I have no idea.'
'Have you seen any masked boys?'
'Yes, there were some.'
'Do you know who they were?'
'No, I don't. They were masked, how could I recognize them, even if I knew them?'
'Oh... One egg was thrown and the media reported it was raining eggs... so (superiors) called from (the capital) Sofia (emphasis by Genadi - M.M.)... anyway. Write down your full name and what we talked here...'
At that point, that uncle policeman (who was quite heavily built) opened at his computer a folder named 'eggs'. There were two my photos, this and this one. The next file was a text downloaded from the Web. Everything was of course absolutely serious.
I guarantee with my honour that everything I have written above is true.
Gas pollution poisoning hundreds of thousands of human beings vs. a bird embryo thrown at the local authorities by a gang of teenagers - nice, really nice.
Welcome to Absurdistan.
Of course that was not the entire conversation. In reality, it lasted half an hour, possibly an hour. The reason they called me to the police station was that I had posted the subject (on the forum) by copying the announcement for the protest which was already distributed all around the Web. Apart from the announcement, I really mentioned taking eggs (to the protest), but how could I know that someone would really take (and use) them? The basic idea was whether I could name the culprits. The policeman told me that at least several more people from the same forum had been called for questioning the previous day..."

Monday, March 15, 2010

International Women's Day in Iran, 2010

The text below was written by Saba Sobhi, Iranian freedom-loving university student, and posted on the WIP site. I advise you to read it, no matter what opinion you have of March 8 in general.

"We were returning from university talking with my friends about International Women's Day in last year and in years before, we wondered what should we do this year. On our way before we reach Vali-e-Asr intersection we saw a young girl maybe a high school girl.
Three surly women wearing chador and two bearded men with guns were surrounding her like hyenas surrounding their bait. They were harassing her and the poor innocent girl was horrified; her eyes looking for help.
She was quiet at first but talking with her eyes she asked: what have I done? What have I said?
When we got closer we noticed that they have searched her back and had found some posters with the picture of a woman on it crying in protest.
These street searches are executed in any time of the day and anywhere.
On the posters one could read this poem:
I will strike on the roots of the henchman,
You miserable you are the hay I am a woman!

(Pointing to Ahmadinejad’s calling the brave youths of Iran as hays).
And then;
the Iranian women honor the universal Women’s Day.
One of the Pasdar women (Revolutionary Guards) repeated the sentences and said: what else you wanted to do? This is striking at the structure of the state. To whom are you taking these posters? Do you want to distribute them among the school girls so that they would take into the streets on Women’s Day? Don’t you think we know what you intend to do? People like you have sunk the country into chaos. Moreover this so-called Women’s Day belongs to Moharebs, to seculars, this is an Islamic country and we don’t have a Women’s Day. This is none of your business. Just study your lessons and watch your veil!
People gathered there and protested: let her go. What has she done? What’s your business with her?
But while people were shocked with the act the Pasdars threatened her with gun and made her to get into their car and drove away.
I and my friends, while choked even more with our everyday tears were very sad because we couldn’t do anything for that innocent girl.
The girl was shouting: what have I done? It is only written that I am not hay I am a woman, what’s wrong with that? But her cries and our protest didn’t help.
These scenes are seen a lot in the sad streets of the city. Of course by Women’s Day coming up, street arrests have increased too..."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Norberg's Financial Fiasco in Bulgarian

The cover of Financial Fiasco: left - the original, copied from; right - the Bulgarian translation, copied from the site of the publisher MaK.
After Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, another libertarian book has been published in Bulgarian in my translation: Financial Fiasco, by Swedish historian Johan Norberg (published by the Cato Institute, 2009). I have written about it also in my Bulgarian blog; Bulgarian readers can go directly there.
This book describes and analyses in a way understandable for lay readers the global financial crises which reached its maximum in 2008 but is still reluctant to go away. According to the author (and I agree), the worst in this crisis is that it has caused comeback of the ideas for massive government intervention in economics. Norberg discusses and rejects the arguments for such intervention and defends the free market. To give the reader a taste of Financial Fiasco, I am quoting below parts of the closing Chapter 6 (but the other chapters are also excellent, so read the entire book if you can!).
"What exactly happened? How could overenthusiastic homebuyers in the United States sink the global economy? Many politicians across the world quickly declared that the crisis must have come from inside the financial system, that the reason must have been that market players had been given too free a rein and made toobig mistakes...
Politicians who had never hesitated to claim credit for each one tenth of one percentage point of growth or for each new job created now immediately went to great pains to pin the blame for the downturn on their lack of influence. But did they lack influence?
Critics say that the financial market was completely unregulated. But 12,190 people work full time on regulating the financial market in Washington, D.C., alone—five times as many as in 1960. The big wave of deregulation is said to have begun in 1980. Since then, the cost of the federal agencies in charge of regulating financial operatorshas increased from $725 million to $2.3 billion, adjusted for inflation.
A ‘‘Hoover myth’’ is now developing about President George W. Bush to the effect that he was some kind of a deregulator. However, during his eight years in the White House, new federal regulations were added to the tune of 78,000 pages a year. That is the highest pace in the history of the United States. Bill Clinton reduced the number of federal bureaucrats by 969; Bush increased their number by 91,196. Clinton reduced the cost of financial regulation slightly;Bush increased it by 29 percent...
(Some people) talking about inadequate regulation simply mean that the authorities did not understand the risks in the markets, paid attention to the wrong things, and made reasonable behavior harder and unreasonable behavior easier. Indeed. But that the government often acts incompetently is not news. And that is precisely why it is pointless to compare the real-life market economy, in all its imperfection, with an ideal image of how hypothetical, perfect
authorities would govern the economy. It goes without saying that we must compare it with the real, imperfect authorities that we actually have.

The problem was not that we had too few regulations; on the contrary, we had too many, and above all faulty ones. Some readers may object that by pointing this out, I am mainly quibbling about the meaning of words and fighting an ideological battle. I grant you that you may have a point there. Please feel free to call the problem whatever you like if you have political reasons for doing so, just as long as you are aware of what it consists of. Because what would be fatal would be for slogans about ‘‘insufficient regulation’’ to give rise to the idea that the crisis happened because the government was absent, and that the government must therefore intervene and regulate more to avoid a repeat...
When businesspeople and senior executives do a bad job, they are—eventually, at any rate—thrown out on their ear. When politicians and financial authorities do a bad job, however, they get more power... . After government authorities had helped create the worst financial crisis
in generations, the climate of ideas has now shifted dramatically in the direction of bigger and more active government... Create a crisis, and people will give you more power to fight it. This
could be called the ‘‘Stockholm syndrome’’ of politics—our utter dependence on our hostage taker makes us develop a relationship with him and start taking his side against the rest of the world... As I have shown in this book, today’s crisis is in many ways the result of our failure to break sufficiently free from the 1970s mentality and from the dream of the government as supervisor, monitor, helper, and supporter

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blaming America by junk science

I have just read the March 4 BBC report Fallujah doctors report rise in birth defects, after following a link from the WIP site. I am quoting a part of it below:

"Doctors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah are reporting a high level of birth defects, with some blaming weapons used by the US after the Iraq invasion.
The city witnessed fierce fighting in 2004 as US forces carried out a major offensive against insurgents...

Doctors and parents believe the problem is the highly sophisticated weapons the US troops used in Fallujah six years ago.
British-based Iraqi researcher Malik Hamdan told the BBC's World Today programme that doctors in Fallujah were witnessing a "massive unprecedented number" of heart defects, and an increase in the number of nervous system defects.
She said that one doctor in the city had compared data about birth defects from before 2003 - when she saw about one case every two months - with the situation now, when, she saw cases every day.
Ms Hamdan said that based on data from January this year, the rate of congenital heart defects was 95 per 1,000 births - 13 times the rate found in Europe

A commenter has left the following remark at the WIP site: "Bloody warmongering U.S. commits war crimes with impunity. I am disgusted and ashamed. Sincerely."
I wrote, "Comparing the congenital heart defects incidence in Fallujah to that in Europe, rather than to that in the same city in earlier years, in other Iraqi cities or in other Mideast countries, should immediately raise the red flag. Hoffman et al. (2002) in their article "The incidence of congenital heart disease" (J Am Coll Cardiol, 2002; 39:1890-1900) point out that this incidence varies greatly depending on which defects you count, and that including all of them gives a rate of 75/1,000 live births - only a little less than reported here for Fallujah. Of course there may be true increase in birth defects causally linked to the US weapons; but so far, the data presented remind me the infamous "vaccines cause autism" speculation."
In fact, the 95/1,000 heart defects statistics is the only number cited in the BBC report. All other data are anecdotal, such as how many defects a doctor "saw" before and now (which could be due simply to her now seeing a larger total number of babies, or to her hospital acquiring better diagnostic equipment).
According to Hoffman et al., "there is no evidence for differences in incidence in different countries or times". I would add that even if there are significantly more birth defects in Fallujah than in Europe, the cause could be selective abortion of malformed fetuses after ultrasound diagnosis in Europe, higher prevalence of consanguineous marriages in Iraq, other genetic factors or environmental factors unrelated to the US-led war. Identifying correlation, let alone causation, is serious business. So far, the presented "data" seem to show only that the war has had psychological impact on Fallujah doctors and their patients.
Of course, we cannot exclude true increase in birth defects in Fallujah caused by the 2004 US operation. Weapons are not presumed or expected to be healthy. However, such an increase can be revealed only by research worth this name, preferably followed by publication(s) in peer-reviewed journal(s). I find it unfortunate that the BBC is so happy to embrace any piece of junk science (if not plain propaganda) as long as it makes the USA look bloody and warmongering.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Prison by any other name

The above videos are from the documentary The Bulgarian Guanatanamo, by Bulgarian journalist Ivan Kulekov. It was aired on Jan. 5, 2009 during the Slavi's Show on BTV Channel. I learned about the documentary and these videos from Svetla Encheva's post The Bulgarian Guantanamo - the silence of media and bloggers. If you are a person concerned with human rights in the EU, I strongly advise you to watch the videos. The documentary highlights the arbitrary detenion of foreigners, and human rights problems in Bulgaria are solved either by strong outside pressure or not at all. Most of what is said is not in English, so for readers who speak no Bulgarian, and also for those whose connection does not allow watching videos on the Web, I am providing below a sort of a transcript.

In the beginning of the first video, the caption "Slavi's Show" appears. The host of this TV show, Slavi Trifonov (bald, with glasses, in a suit), introduces Ivan Kulekov (with grey hair, in black jacket and black T-shirt). Kulekov talks about documentary he has made: "In a beautifully-looking from outside building in the Busmanci district of Sofia, people are kept imprisoned on an order by the secret services. These are people whose visas and identity documents are lost or expired, or who are in Bulgaria illegally, or are concerned a threat to national security. In this facility, the laws valid for Bulgarian citizens are not valid."

Then the documentary begins. A label appears, "Ministry of Interior, Immigration Directorate". The camera moves backwards and shows a tall fence with barbed wire on top. Kulekov's voice-over clarifies that this is the so-called Home for temporary accommodation of foreigners (Bulg. Dom za vremenno nastanyavane na chuzhdentsi) in the district of Busmanci.

We see a room overcrowded with men. One of them complains that the room is kept locked all night, then is unlocked at 7 AM, but only for a short time. The inmates want to urinate and defecate, they are told to urinate in a bottle. The strain leads to quarrels and even fights.

The camera shows a grey-haired man in a suit - Yotko Andreev, the director of the home. He says that there are foreigners from many countries in the home and the personnel tries to distribute them in rooms in a way minimizing the strain between them, but these efforts are not always successful.

A young black-haired inmate, Javed Nuri, says, "I have seen many poor countries, poor not economically but legally, yet I have nowhere else experienced such a poor law - to be imprisoned together with people who have served sentences for murder, and with sick people."

The camera shows a room overcrowded with men. Andreev admits that in the corresponding institutions in Belgium there are 2-4 people in a room and it is supplied with running water and toilet, while in his Home there are 10-18 people in a room with no water and toilet.

An old woman with glasses says in Russian that she has been caught at the airport with a false Lithuanian passport. Kulekov asks her whether she had known it was false and she answers, "Yes, I bought it". The camera shows two younger women flanking her, each hugging a child; one of them is wearing a headscarf. The Russian woman complains that there are no conditions in the Home. Asked what conditions she had expected, she answers, "(I wish) at least that they give people toilet paper!"

The camera shows a dark-haired woman - Valeria Ilareva, a lawyer. She says, "These are people who are de facto banned from work, who cannot even leave our country. There are many persons from the former Soviet Union who now have nowhere to return - no country would accept them. There is a man who have been kept in Busmanci for 3 years and has now been detained there for a second time. They have nowhere to deport him to, he has no country to return. He has come to Bulgaria back in the days when there was Soviet Union."

Andreev says, "Another group of foreigners who are sent to the Home are those who have served prison sentences but owe money to Bulgarian government. Until their cases are clarified, we keep them in the Home."

A black, bald man says in English, "Even if we have offended and maybe we have no documents to be in the country, at least they could listen to us and consider us. Now, we are here for almost one year. I came legally with a visa but the visa expired, so I cannot go back to my country. That is why I am here, and most of people are here."

A man from Syria (I think, the same who complained from the locked room) says, "I am here because my passport expired." Asked for how long he has lived in Bulgaria, he answers, "For 15 years. Married, with four children."

The camera shows him behind a window with bars, holding two of the children - boys who look about 3 and 1 year old, the younger one holding a rattle. Then we see four children in a room. I am not sure whether they are all his children - they seem too close in age to be from one family. They are three boys and a girl, all look younger than 5. There are matresses and toys scattered on the floor. A toddler is playing with a large cardbox, going into and out of it.

Then a headscarved woman talkes, with a 5-6-year old boy by her side. I cannot say whether she is the Syrian man's wife, and whether she is the same whom we saw earlier next to the Russian woman. She says in English, "No, I don't know how much I will stay here. Why we are here... We have children here. They want to help us, I see. They make a room for the children, they ask "What do you want?", they give clothes now. But I don't know. May be (to) live here (is) nice, the best for our (children?), I don't know." A toddler waves his rattle to the camera.

A middle-aged man - Dr. Ibrahim Dogmush, asks, "What is the fault of this child, the one you have photographed, to be in prison?"

The camera shows Nuri again. Kulekov's voice over, "Motivated by desparation and as a sign of protest against his arbitrary detention by the secret services, on Aug. 24, 2006 Javed Nuri covered himself in bedsheets and set himself on fire."

Nuri continues the tale himself, "I decided that death is better than living in such suffering. The deputy director of Busmanci came and said, "We cannot forget (?) people who have set themselves on fire." And then they threw me into the isolator. I was injured, my legs were black. It was called Three days had passed from my surgery and they threw me into that room without a bed, without bedsheets. To throw there an ill person - this doesn't happen even at Guantanamo."

The camera shows a man behind bars; his name is Tariq Adilsami. He talks in English.

"Where do you come from?", Kulekov asks.


"Why are you here?"

"Because I don't have documents... I do not know why they brought me here. I have (made) no problems, I do not have any problems here. They keep me here for more than a month. Why?"

"Why did you choose to come to Bulgaria?"

"Somebody told me Bulgaria is a country in Europe."

Here, the first video ends and the second one begins.

"For how long will you stay here?"

"I don't know. People don't give me how long time I'll spend here, don't speak with me... I want my rights here, in Bulgaria. I want my rights, but they don't give me my rights."

"Have you a lawyer?"

"I speak with somebody for a lawyer, but I'm waiting now for months and no one comes to see me."

Andreev: "The idea is not to keep the person long in this building, but to achieve the (authorities's) goals, to talk with the foreigner in the meantime (while he is detained) so that he realizes he has made a mistake."

Ilareva: "In countries that have rule of law, it provides efficient guarantees against abuse of power. Decisions are not left to the discretion of those who hold power, but must be inside clear frames given by the law."

Andreev: "The case with Sid Kazdoev, who identifies himself as a Chechen, is very sensitive for our Home. He has been kept at Block No. 3 (presumably a punitive isolator - M.M.) for a long period. I have been Director of this Home for 3 months (and I cannot be responsible for what has happened before). The reason to keep Kazdoev in this block for so long is that my predecessor has decided so. He thought it was best for security of other inmates and of Kazdoev himself to hold him there for a longer time. (Kulekov asks for how long.) More than 7 months.

Ilareva reminds that the maximum length of isolation as a disciplinary measure in prisons is 14 days.

A young black man with glasses in an orange jacket, whose name is Oladotun Ibitui, says, "They say it is not a prison, but unfortunately it is a prison. I was ready for everything, even to die there. Because they do not tell you for how long they will keep you there."

Ilareva: "In Spain, illegal immigrants cannot be detained for more than 40 days."

A middle-aged black man with a blue hat named Qassim Usi Machanoh, in a very muserable shelter: "I have been in Busmanci for 2 years and 5 months... as a prisoner, and worse than a prisoner. I have been here for a year and a half. I have no right to work, no right at anything... No help from anywhere. Should I become a thief? (Asked whether he believes) I used to believe, I don't know anymore... I lose my faith... I was born Muslim but I realized that everybody has the right to choose his religion. I don't know anymore whether I am a Muslim or a Christian. I go to churches, I go everywhere, people pray to one and the same God..."

Ibitui again: "I was there for 1 year and 4 months. The authorities only waited until I turned 18 to say that I was illegal, have no right to live in Bulgaria and must go back to the monkeys in Africa. "We will send you back to Africa where the monkeys are." In my country - Nigeria, there are 1500 Bulgarians."

Nuri: "If somebody is a threat for national security, he must be charged. Evidence must be presented, and he must be tried. And then go to prison, not to a Home for temporary accommodation of foreigners."

Ibitui: "My father - what happened to him? A healthy man, never had any problems, never complained of anything. They kept him detained for 7 months. Then the doctor measured high blood pressure. They did not want him to die at their hands, so they released him. They released him at the 8th month, and he died at the 9th month. One month later, a Syrian man died at their hands."

Andreev (apparently commenting the Syrian's death): "It was the result of (stomach) ulcer hemorrhage - a natural death."

A bearded man named Ahmed Bethaush talking from behind bars in English, "I am here because I am ill. This is a hospital. I have been here for 4 months, because I don't have money to go to my country..."

"Have you made any offence?"

"No, I have done nothing, just don't have any documents."

"For how long will you stay in Busmanci?"

"One year, two years..."

"Why did you escape from Algeria?"

"I need to go to Algeria. I like Algeria. I speak to the boss that I need to go to Algeria. But they say there is no plane or no money, I don't know... This is a problem of Busmanci."

Ilareva: "It is not about the Arabs at all. It is about basic human rights to which every human beings is entitled just because of the fact of being human. Regardless of whether he has documents or not, to what religion or nationality he belongs... If we allow foreigners to be detained withour court, maybe in the near future the same will happen to Bulgarian citizens."

Nuri: "The word "dom" (home) is a nice word, everybody wants to be at home, but for me it now means things so terrible that I do not want to remember them, so I would wish never to hear this word again."

The last footage from the Busmanci institution is the face of a toddler looking close at the camera.

Closing words of Kulekov: "Dear viewers, it turns out it is legal to imprison somebody just because he has contracted tuberculosis. Everything happening at Busmanci is legal. It is legal to send a person behind bars just because one or two secret service officers have suggested so, and to keep him imprisoned for years. It is legal to keep immigrants and refugees for 15-20 years without permit to work and study because buraucrats have not solved their cases. Bulgaria is the only European country without provision for amnesty of immigrants, but this is legal here. There are such antihuman laws in action."

Update Feb. 20: Svetla Encheva reports that the inmates in Busmanci are now protesting, at least 25 of them are on hunger strike. Her Feb. 19 post includes a video showing the protest from outside. Allegations of corruptions are discussed - foreigners claim to have been told that they must give bribes to obtain favourable decision on their status, identical cases are solved differently and nobody explains why.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Voice of a Haitian

Rose-Anne Clermont is a German journalist and blogger of Haitian origin. She contributes to Women's International Perspective and writes a blog titled Currents Between Shores. I like very much her writing and her personality, though we disagree on most issues. I advise you to visit her blog for an update about Haiti. Below I am copying most of her Jan. 13 post Helping Haiti:

"As many of you know, my mother runs a center for homeless boys in Jacmel, Haiti, my father's hometown. My mother's hometown, Port-au-Prince, lies in rubble... We are still awaiting news from the Clermont Center and we're hardly comforted by the devastating scenes of leveled buildings, half buried people and eerie absence of a casualty and mortality count.
But I, and I encourage those of you who would like to help, am trying not to dwell on the over abundance of negativity, which runs in a loop whenever mainstream news sources focus on Haiti: "one of the poorest countries in the world, people eat mud cakes, there was no infrastructure to begin with, hurricanes have already left the country crippled"... alright already.
Let's move forward. Let's move something.
For starters, you can help (whether it's donating money or supplies or time).
All major international relief organizations such as UNICEF... will be contributing to the relief effort. But remember also Doctors Without Borders, The Clermont Center for Homeless Adolescents and Yele... "Men anpil chay pa lou." Many hands make the load lighter."

Two days later, Rose-Anne wrote that, fortunately, boys and staff at the Clermont Center are safe, though the building is damaged.

In Bangladesh, women must be virtuous, not alive

Below, I am copying a part of the article A Hidden Truth Behind Climate Change, by Riane Eisler.

"Studies show that women are 14 times more likely to die in natural disasters. One heart-rending study of a Bangladesh flash flood found that 90 percent of casualties were female. Many factors contributed to this high casualty rate which were all avoidable. A woman's role in this Southeast Asian nation, as in most of the Middle East and parts of Africa, is one of dependency - so of course, these Bangladeshi women were not taught to swim. But perhaps the most important factor was that they lived and died in a culture where women are so rigidly controlled that they aren't permitted to leave their homes without being accompanied by a male family member. When the flash flood occurred, they sadly stayed and drowned."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Happy New Year 2010 to Enercon

Enercon E-112 prototype with two REpower 5M prototypes at Cuxhaven test field (image cropped from Wikipedia).

Our likes and dislikes may have different bases - some are rational, some are not. My pro-americanism, which is no secret for those who know or read me, is rational. It is based on what the USA do and don't do. And as soon as they do things that seem to me bad, I will attack them. I have already done this (and I intend to do it again) in relation to the Judge Rotenberg Center. This will also be a fiercely anti-American post, featuring another event.
Let me begin with a quote from Wikipedia:
"Enercon GmbH, based in Aurich, Northern Germany, is the third-largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world and has been the market leader in Germany for several years... Enercon was prohibited from exporting their wind turbines to the US until 2010 [1] due to alleged infringement of U.S. Patent 5,083,039 [2]. Recently a cross patent agreement was agreed with its competitor General Electric. Enercon claims their intellectual property was stolen by Kenetech (US Windpower, Inc.) and patented in the US before they could do so. Kenetech made similar claims against Enercon. However, solid evidence has been presented that shows there was espionage against Enercon... According to a National Security Agency employee, detailed information concerning Enercon was passed on to Kenetech via ECHELON.[1][3] According to this report, the aim of the espionage against Enercon was the forwarding of details of Wobbens wind wheel to a US firm. The consequence was that the US firm patents the wind wheel before Wobben, resulting in a breach of patent rights."
So US intelligence agencies devoted their time, resources and infrastructure to intellectual property theft and then the US court issued a verdict against the victim company, inflicting more damages on it. Need I comment this disgusting abuse of power? I think not. I wonder, however, what US people are thinking about this. Are they aware? Do they think that "national interests" justify everything? If so, then Americans will lose their moral superiority over their enemies. Do they worry that preoccupation of US intelligence agents with theft may jeopardize national security? I would worry about this.
Despite stealing innovations it could not develop itself, Kenetech company did not do well. Maybe evil deeds are indeed punished by God, as religious people claim, or bring bad luck, as superstitious people say. Anyway, Kenetech went bankrupt as early as 1996. Here are some relevant quotes from the European Tribune forum:
"Moon also references why Enercon turbines, the best in the world, are not available in the US. And that's only the surface of the sordid story. I fought Kenetech most of my career, because of precisely these kinds of actions. Their bankruptcy was a vindication of sorts for me personally, and my credibility in the industry. In actuality, GE now holds the old Kenetech patents, which expire in 2010, and Enercon has already made a royalty deal with them. But for political reasons, they have no wish to do business in the US... As someone formerly involved in the Aerospace industry, (I know that) this is standard practice for US firms and the US government. That's why I tend to make with the hollow laughing at a lot of the claims about "allies" and US innovation and various other topics."
This story touches me even more because of my soft spot for alternative energy. As I wrote once on Anglo-Libyan's blog, "at high school, I used to go to the university library and read books and articles about photosynthesis. I wanted to construct a chlorophyll-based solar battery. Such plans to save the world, the details varying according to personal areas of interest, seem to be usual at that age - though rarely talked about :-)." Several books on alternative energy sources (including wind power) bought at that time can still be found in my mother's library - the usual location for the books of a married woman.
In the summer of 1996, I saw live for the first time wind turbines, and they must have been Enercon's. I was on my way to my first (and only so far) international congress with several other Bulgarians, our participation being made possible by the enormous generosity of the German host. Soon after we crossed the Czech-German border, a colleague who had travelled the same path before said to me, "Look through the window and you'll soon see three wind turbines". And indeed, after a short time their beautiful giant silhouettes appeared in the blue evening sky, like something out of this world.
Later, I saw wind turbines on Bulgarian land. On our way to the sea resort town of Primorsko (described in my Aug. 2, 2006 post), we spotted several turbines near Sliven, a city famous for its winds. We had no sea vacation the following year because our younger son was still a baby. The next year (2008), we put both children in the car and set out for Primorsko, again, despite our slight dislike for its over-development. As we approached Sliven, I kept my eyes open for the wind turbines. However, I saw only one! Being a malignant pessimist, I immediately started thinking that something terrible had happened to the rest. But this was not the case. Several minutes later, the old group of turbines appeared in sight; it turned out that I had not remembered their proper location and the lonely turbine we had seen first was in fact a new addition. As we passed near them, I read the inscription "Enercon" on them. A year later, I first heard about the espionage story from the Explorer TV channel.
Now, as 2010 has arrived, I am glad that the ban that should never have been imposed is to expire. I wish more profits and less troubles to Enercon owners and employees. Will there be any reaction from the USA? Ordinary Americans could tell the story to those who don't know it yet and write about it in their blogs. Posslibly also e-mail their representatives in Congress that US security agencies should protect Americans from their enemies, rather than rob other countries. And President Barack Obama could welcome Enercon on US soil and say how sorry he is for what happened. After all, he is good at speeches (if not at anything else) and is always happy when he can bash his country.