In Bulgaria, Social Welfare Office Director Beats Romani Woman
10 May 2003
On August 26, 2002, Ms Anka Vesselinova Harizanova, a 42-year-old Romani woman from Varbica in central Bulgaria, was reportedly attacked by Ms S.M., the director of the office for social welfare, at a store owned by Ms S.M.'s husband, according to her testimony, given to the ERRC on December 12, 2002. Ms Harizanova told the ERRC that she regularly visited the social welfare office to try to get the financial aid she was owed for the previous six months. At the office, Ms S.M. told her on several occasions that she did not qualify for social aid. According to Ms Harizanova, on August 6, 2002, Ms S.M. told her that she would receive no money and that she should go and pick mushrooms in the forest and she could sell them to Ms S.M.'s husband who owned a store. When Ms Harizanova left the office, she met a radio journalist and informed the journalist of her problem, which was apparently reported in the media. On the day of the incident, Ms Harizanova stated, she went to the store owned by Ms S.M.'s husband to sell mushrooms she had picked and Ms S.M. was there. Ms S.M. reportedly approached her, asking why she had spoken to the journalist and pushed her violently out of the store, shouting "dirty Gypsy". Ms Harizanova told the ERRC that Ms S.M. then kicked her and she fell to the ground, after which Ms S.M. kicked her again. Mr Lyuben Harizanov, Ms Harizanova's husband, testified that when he saw what happened, he slapped Ms S.M. in the face. Following the incident, Ms Harizanova was taken to the hospital and received a medical certificate stating that she suffered a serious injury to her left pelvic joint and broken bones in her left leg. On September 5, 2002, a metal rod was placed in Ms Harizanova's left leg, after which, she remained in hospital until September 16, 2002. At the time of the ERRC visit on December 14, 2002, Ms Harizanova was only able to walk with the assistance of crutches. Since the incident, Ms S.M. filed a complaint against Mr Harizanov, and Ms Harizanova filed a criminal complaint against Ms S.M. with the Regional Court in Preslav. As of March 18, 2003, the police investigation into the case had been completed and Ms S.M. was found to have not committed any criminal acts. Ms Harizanova had hired an attorney who was reportedly attempting to file a second criminal complaint before filing a civil complaint.