Police violence in Macedonian markets
05 January 1999
The practice of physical violence against Roma selling textiles in Macedonian markets continues. Selling textiles is a very widespread yet not legally permitted form of earning a living among Roma in Macedonia (see ERRC report A Pleasant Fiction: The Human Rights Situation of Roma in Macedonia). Ms Barije Demirovska (46), a Romani woman from Skopje, told the ERRC how she was maltreated by the police at a local bazaar:
"On June 18 I went to sell some socks, t-shirts and underwear at the bazaar at my usual selling place. A policeman saw me selling these textiles, and waved his truncheon towards me — he did not ask me anything but just started to run towards me. I got scared, grabbed the bag with my goods and started running away. But the policeman was persistent, and I thought he wouldn't stop until he caught me and beat me. In the end I was forced to run into a ladies' restroom, but to my surprise the policeman followed me inside. I got inside one of the toilets, but the policeman hit the door with all his strength. The door hit me while opening and I fell down. Immediately I felt pains all over my body. The policeman called me a Gypsy, swore at my family and asked me where the textiles were. He could not find the bag because I had dropped it into a box before I ran into the restroom. While the policeman looked around for my goods I sneaked out among other women leaving the restroom. My right arm was swollen because of the hit, and I felt a very strong pain. I went to a hospital, and a doctor there gave me an injection. I had to get five injections altogether. I went to the police station and told them what happened to me, but they never did anything."
Ms Benita Seljim (26), who witnessed the event, told the ERRC that this was not the first time that the police have beaten Roma because they sell goods at the market. "It is a normal thing for us to be beaten, it happens so often," said Ms Seljim. "My mother was selling textiles in the bazaar too, and she was beaten by the police as well. She is 51 and has a heart condition, but the policemen do not ask you why you sell your goods there or if you are ill or not. It is not important for them - what matters is that they give you a beating." (ERRC)