| Mustafa Yumer – chair of the Democratic League for Human Rights in Bulgaria,

Dear compatriots,

It is the eve of the 20th anniversary of the events in May, 1989. Twenty years are a sufficient time for a real historic assessment of these events which shook the foundations of the regime in our country and gave a strong impulse for change.

On the eve of the third millennium, something horrendous was being done in our country in 1984 – the implementation of yet another policy for the forced assimilation of the largest ethnic group.

Apart from the armed state institutions, the whole state apparatus and heavily armed, "volunteers" full of hatred were also mobilized to implement this policy. At night, they blocked towns and villages for the "voluntary change" of ethnic Turks' names.

The mean included threats, batteries, smashing of furniture, robbery of family valuables, rape attempts, abuse of personal dignity and honor regardless of gender or age, demolition of religious buildings and many other uncivilized actions, including the use of firearms! Something unseen and horrible was happening in the Rhodopi Mountains!

I publicly called this forced assimilation policy, equal to genocide, "barbarian" and "uncivilized"; I also said that this will bring the end of communism.

Although I paid dearly for my audacity, time proved that I was right.

At the time the "disobedient" were rounded in police precincts, in hospitals full of wounded people, or in schools quickly transformed into field hospitals.

Martial law was proclaimed in the Eastern Rhodopi and Yablanovo in the Sliven area. More than 500 people were sent to the restored Belene concentration camp; thousands of intellectuals were fired, young people expelled from the universities.

Quickly formed comprising of "activists" of the Bulgarian Communist Party, the People's Front, the Bulgarian Agricultural People's Union, the Communist Youth, workers and trade unions patrolled day and night, listening for people speaking Turkish. The fine for even a single word was 5 leva and any attempt to protest was punished by battery.

I, too, was among the thousands sent in exile in different areas of Bulgaria.

The Democratic League for Human Rights was established on my initiative on November 13, 1988 in Komarevo, Vratsa county, the second village in which I was exiled.

The founders had all passed through all "schools" of the "restorers". We had dedicated ourselves to the fight to restore our honor and dignity.

In a short time, tens of thousands of sufferers joined the League and it managed to create, on the fly, a wide network of structures in all areas dominated by representatives of our ethnicity.

The European Conference on Human Rights was to be held in Paris at the end of May, 1989. To us, this was a very important forum. Following an in-depth analysis of life in our country and given the favorable domestic and international conditions, the League's leadership decided, together with many other similar informal organizations, to meet the European Conference "in a dignified manner" - with wide-scale events in all areas of public life. The permanent mass hunger strikes, peaceful assemblies and various other forms of civil unrest were aimed at inducing an economic, spiritual and political crisis. In this way we tried to acquaint the world with the tragedy of the minorities in our country: blatant disrespect of human rights, disrespect and unceremonious breach of domestic and international law, incessant attempts by the communist leaders of the state to mislead the international community, not only at bilateral meetings but at all international for a; with the suffering and the pain of our whole nation, subjected to terror and genocide for decades. We had the support both of the civilized world and of all who fought for democracy in our country. To put an end to the escalation of the resistance, in the night of May 9, 1989 the forces of the regime discerned the threat and expelled us – first me, then the other leaders of the League – from Bulgaria. At a later stage, the same happened to some representatives of other human rights organizations. But they had miscalculated. We were prepared. After that, at least two leaderships that were acquainted with our decisions took charge.

The start of the first group and hunger strikes was given on May 6, 1989. More than 40000 of our activists took part in them. In the second half o May 19, a wave of peaceful rallies swept the country. These civil forms of the fight were aimed at the restoration of the rights that were forcefully deprived of. Although they were peaceful and entailed no political demands, the reaction of the state was vicious. Thousands were arrested, beaten to death or fired, and some 5000 were expelled from the country. I believe that some 100000 of our members and supporters took part in these rallies. The worst was that more than 25 League members lost their lives. I bow with deference to these heroes, fallen in the fight to protect human dignity and democracy. I give my most sincere condolences to their relatives.

At the end of 1989, while still abroad, I invited all fighters for democracy in our country to stop working for ten days as a protest against the total terror. To defuse the situation, on May 29, 1989 Zhivko was forced to open Bulgaria's borders to the world. The forced banishment of Bulgarian citizens began. T that time, our goals coincided completely with those of the many informal organizations in the country: Bulgaria to b a free, lawful country. And this was only possible in a democratic state. We were fighting for free and democratic Bulgaria. This is why during the European Meeting on Human Rights, held in Paris on June 4, 1989, I addressed the whole Bulgarian nation in a declaration.

I was convinced that only through united efforts and the creation of a common agenda, a people's front, we could win the fight. Which is exactly what happened.

Even though after 20 years, I'd like to express my gratitude to all informal organizations in our country that fought next to us for the victory of the democratic ideals. I'd also like to express m gratitude and recognition of all members, followers and supporters of the Democratic League. On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the historic events, I wish them health and success in their lives.


  1. In published materials and in electronic media I saw the phrase that the by-laws of the League only allowed ethnic Turks to become members. This is definitely untrue. The only requirement in the by-laws is the acceptance of the League's agenda. The League had Bulgarian members as well, some of whom participated in secret missions on a voluntary basis.
  2. In his book "The Democratic League of the Turks in Bulgaria" Azis Bey makes some 50 to 60 mistakes. Some of these are that: 1) the establishment of the League was Sabri Iskander's idea; 2) he had a monopoly on decision-making; 3) Ali Ormanli was his deputy, and many more that do not correspond to the truth.
  3. As a founder and a chair of the League, with regard to the anniversary, I would like to report to the organization and to the whole world that as a result of the fight of all democratic forces in our country, the League has accomplished all of its goals. 

May 1, 2009
Sincerely, M. Yumer