For the second night in a row, hundreds of Ethnic Macedonians, predominantly youth, clashed with police on the streets of the Macedonian capital Skopje. On the night of 20-21 six police officers were injured and 27 people got arrested. The riots broke out after the alleged murder of an ethnic 19-year-old Macedonian student by an ethnic Albanian on 19 May.
The ethnic Macedonian student Angel P. was allegedly murdered by the ethnic Albanian Nasser E. According to the police, Nassar E. broke into the house of Angel P. and tried to steal his bicycle. Angel and his father Saso witnessed the theft and prompted Nasar to flee. Angel and his father pursued Nasar, but when Angel came close to Nassar, who had two other individuals with him, turned and stabbed him to death.
Later that day, hundreds of ethnic Macedonians went to the streets to protest the murder. The demonstrators gathered on the Gjorce Petrov street, blocking all traffic. Police forces started sealing of the area but could not prevent escalation. Some of the protesters started rioting, setting garbage containers alight and smashing the windows of shops owned by ethnic Albanians. Rumours started circulating amongst the demonstrators that the two other people involved in the stabbing were hiding in the predominantly Albanian city district Saraj. Police blocked the bridge into Saraj but could not prevent shops from suspected Albanians from being demolished and set on fire.
In the night from 20-21 May demonstrators started gathering on the Gjorce Petrov street again. Riot police detained 27 people suspected of rioting while six police officers got wounded. According to the police several police vehicles were damaged. Police spokesmen Ivo Kotevksi said “The riots passed without major damage and the police managed to establish order in Gorce Petrov”.
The news of the protests went viral amongst Macedonian users of Social Media with some users supporting the ethnic violence, while others called for peace and coexistence. “It is not the time for criticism but for calls for peace, because this could happen again in the days to come,” one Macedonian wrote.
The Head of the OSCE mission in Macedonia, Ambassador Ralf Breth, stated “We are monitoring these development with increasing concerns […] we understand the authorities are investigating this crime, therefore it is crucial to let the investigators and judicial process take its course” He continued “In the recent past the citizens of this country have demonstrated their ability to come together in times of suffering. We appeal to everyone the live up to these values. There should be no collective responsibility by any community for the acts of one individual”.
About 63 percent of Macedonia’s 2.1 million inhabitants is of ethnic Macedonian decent, 25 percent is ethnic Albanians. Ethnic Albanians have their own schools, communities and political parties. Ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians live in the same country, but they do not live together. Ethnic violence between these two groups has accrued several times in the past few years. In 2001 the insurgency of the Albanian National Liberation Army, a militant group fighting for more rights for the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia, brought the country at the brink of civil war.
Sources: Balkan Insight, Balkan Open, MINA, RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, Tol.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink