HERA – Association for Health Education and Research strongly condemns the intentional attack by an unknown person on her employee that took place yesterday in the Youth Center “I Want to Know” – Vodno.
Namely, an adult male entered the Center to get information regarding the available services in which he was allegedly interested because of his children’s health. While the employee was explaining to him the various types of testing for STDs, he began insulting her with words like “Soros c*nt” and openly threatened to set her and the Center on fire if she calls the police. Thus, he endangered her safety, as well as the security of the Organization’s service. In addition, of particular concern is the fact that both the visit to the Center and the assault on the employee was intentional.
The Youth Center “I Want to Know” in Vodno was founded in 2005 and since then has annually provided free and confidential services for sexual and reproductive health to a minimum of 1500 citizens from the marginalized and vulnerable groups, including gynecological and dermatological checkups, testing, counseling, contraception, and psychological support.
Despite the long significant role of this service in preserving the health of citizens, and especially the youth, this assault on HERA and her employees is not an isolated case. However, it is the most serious in the series of events that have taken place in the past period.
Yesterday’s event follows a series of assaults and hate speech on social media against our employees and the organization which became particularly frequent in the last year in parallel to our commitment to introduce comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in schools. Supposedly intending to protect traditional family values, the radical opponents of CSE are systematically spreading lies and twisting information, in order to cause moral panic and fear, while openly discriminating against groups of citizens and using hate speech.
These assaults have intensified especially in the last two weeks by the political party “Levica” which places false information regarding activities with the municipalities Karposh and Aerodrom in Skopje from which HERA has never received funding for their implementation, thus announcing the restoration of the so-called “de-Sorosization” and the chase against the civil sector.
One of the fundamental characteristics of a democratic society is encouraging a debate with dissenters supported by arguments using accurate information, instead of intimidation, threats, and violence. Unfortunately, yesterday’s assault on the employee in our Youth Center indicates that the non-sanctioning by the authorities of the organized hate speech and ostracism online, can easily transfer to reality and cause hate, violence, and discrimination of individuals and civil society organizations.
Hence we appeal to the competent state institutions to stop maintaining a culture of impunity with their inaction, approach this case seriously and sanction the hate speech, threats, and violence in public space accordingly.
More specifically, we demand:
– The Minister of Interior, Oliver Spasovski, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs to condemn assaults on civil society organizations and seriously investigate the last assault for which a police report has been made, as well as to treat it as a crime, not as a misdemeanor. Also, we demand investigating the possible connection between this event and the earlier spread of lies and hate against HERA;
– The Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an investigation for a crime of racial and other discrimination performed through ostracism of organizations and individuals and their commitment to the equality of the people, and to bring an indictment to the competent court;
– The Ministry of Interior and the Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office to follow the hate speech related to the so-called “de-Sorosization” more closely, as well as the threats and the assaults on civil activists, and finally take a proactive role in sanctioning. Hate speech is not explicitly sanctioned with the Criminal Code, however, there are provisions that may be called for action, especially considering the political context and the history of assaults and threats;
– All public officials and elected officials on a national and local level, as well as the political leaders to distance themselves and condemn hate speech and behavior that incites violence against any individual or organization and to oppose fake news and manipulations with evidence and accurate and verifies information from relevant sources;
– The municipalities Aerodrom and Karposh where HERA is the direct target of hate and false attacks to publicly distance themselves from these assaults on the organization and protect our security.
We inform the public that for this assault we filing criminal charges for a crime of racial and other discrimination performed through ostracism of organizations and individuals and their commitment to the equality of the people.
January 14, 2022