Anti-Roma riots engulf Bulgaria after teenage tragedy

The death of 19-year-old Angel Petrov, who was hit by a van, has been blamed on associates of a Roma clan leader

Sofia

The hit-and-run killing of a teenager blamed on the criminal underworld has sparked violent protests across Bulgaria against the Roma community and the government for its failure to deal with organised crime.

Police have arrested 200 people during protests since Friday when Angel Petrov, 19, was killed near the city of Plovdiv in central Bulgaria. Properties have been set on fire and cafes ransacked by rioters, while police have acted to prevent attacks on Roma districts and mosques in a number of cities. Bulgarian television has shown what appeared to be gangs of Roma vigilantes armed with swords, knives and air guns in anticipation of confrontation.

The Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has come under criticism for not reacting to the unrest quickly enough, amid accusations from the opposition that he has failed in his pledge to tackle Bulgaria's criminal underbelly.

Mr Petrov's death, after being hit by a van, has been blamed on associates of a Roma clan leader. The arrest of the van's driver has not quietened uproar among ordinary Bulgarians, many of whom feel that the incident goes to the heart of the biggest issues facing their country: organised crime and corruption, and the status of the Roma minority. "We have not previously had such a series of racist, anti-Roma protests carried out in a number of cities," said Daniel Smilov, of the Centre for Liberal Strategies think-tank. "These were low-intensity violent and racist outbursts, but over the past 20 years we have not been accustomed to such events."

Bulgaria is situated on major drugs transit routes into Europe from Asia and the authorities are also fighting human trafficking. Since joining the EU in 2007, Bulgaria has had substantial amounts of European funding temporarily suspended due to concerns about corruption. The nefarious "business" links of leading politicians regularly come under scrutiny, and the police have been criticised for failing to control the expansion of underworld networks.

The Roma community constitutes between 5 and 10 per cent of the country's population of 7.5 million. Many Roma are among Bulgaria's poorest and most marginalised people, in poor housing and living outside the regular economy and society. Many ethnic Bulgarians resent their alleged involvement in crime. "The Gypsies have too many rights and no responsibilities," said Angel Katushev, a 22-year-old student from Plovdiv, wearing a Bulgarian flag at a rally in Sofia. "We pay for them, and we want them to play an active part in social life, paying taxes, following the law and living in a civilised way."

The protests have largely been orchestrated through social network websites and opposition media, including the SKAT television channel associated with the ultranationalist party Ataka ("Attack"). But many demonstrators disassociated themselves from the nationalist hardcore on whom the unrest has been blamed. "I don't want to be with the freaks, the football thugs," said Orlin Mitev, a 29-year-old tour guide at the Sofia rally.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

SEN Learning Support Assistant

£70 - £75 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Learning Support Assistants n...

Teachers required for Cambridge Primary positions Jan 2015

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in Cambridge...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain