Almost Like Kafka’s Trial Aneta MIRCHEVA Since people with intellectual and mental disabilities turn for assistance to the BHC, such stories could in many cases be deemed absurd, sometimes preposterous or even strange. Unfortunately, they are all sad stories, the saddest being the fact that they really do happen. They happen outside the everyday life we are accustomed to. They happen in a way invisible to the “ordinary” person. Invisible, not because they occur far from our usual reality, but because every such case is clouded by suspicion and stigma. Because where there is “madness”, there is also fear of touching it and understanding what is hidden behind someone’s unusual behavior, behind the strange way of expression and sometimes, behind the difference of the other. This fear is often used to mask what would otherwise be deemed as inappropriate behavior and blatant violation of the law. On top of the fear of everything that is different, the stigma makes things even more complicated. Because we cease to make the distinction while naively believing when someone’s behavior is explained by an illness. Naively, as we stop thinking about the reasons behind a certain model of coping with life. And, as usually happens, the responsibility for all this remains vested with the victims, who are, as a rule, least prepared to deal with it. The first story begins at the market. It was an early October evening. A man and a woman past middleage were doing their shopping, as they did every day. Let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. S. The market was municipal. For no apparent reason, a young man any past our couple and hit Mr. S. in the felly. Mr. S. felt, Mrs. S. feels as helpless as her husband. They shouted for help. Police officers came, advised the couple to file a complaint, they followed the advice and this was the end. On the following day, Mrs. D. visited the Municipality, hoping to obtain information about the bully. Her reasoning was that since the market was municipal and she could indicate the stall from which the young man had lunged at her husband, she would have important information for the investigating police officers. At this time, quite naturally, Mrs. S. was still under the influence of fear for the health of her husband and the stressful occurrence. Following a brief conversation with municipal officials and promises in which no one, even the staff themselves, believed, Mrs. S. was “asked” to leave the building. The woman, however, insisted on her right to information. She insisted that at the very least she had the right to file a complaint and to ask for information in writing. Accompanied by municipal security, however, she was forced to leave the offices. In the lobby of the municipal building, she made one final attempt 1 OBEKTIV
to make use of her right to file a complaint. She was kindly advised not to bother anyone in the future. Desperate, Mrs. S. declared that she would stay with the security guard until she was allowed to file her complaint. In the meantime, she tried to find out the name of the security guard who had been so rude to her. At this time, the situation took a new twist. The security guard called officers from the respective police precinct. Following a brief discussion, an officer required Mrs. S. to present her ID card and then refused to give it back to her. She demanded an explanation why her ID card was being retained. This was immediately interpreted as a manifestation of a psychic disorder. In an extremely rude manner, with the use of physical force, Mrs. S. was pushed in an ambulance that had been called in the meantime. She was then taken to a psychiatric dispensary. She was released eight hours later. Mrs. S. does not suffer, and has never suffered, from a psychic disorder. The short stay at the psychiatric dispensary has left her with the visible marks of physical violence and the not so visible but more lasting marks on her conscience. Apart from the stress and humiliation that she was forced to suffer, she would hardly ever regain her trust in the police and the municipal authorities. She would hardly ever trust the society that had witnessed the little scene, with no one even giving a slight though about what was happening. Things did not go that well for Mrs. B. Her story begins at roughly the same time. Mrs. B. is an intelligent woman who is married abroad, speaks seven languages and is a respected professional. She was in Bulgaria trying to settle a severe property dispute with her sister. Mrs. B. believes in law and order. In October, her belief was solid. Today, I would not dare claim this. Following a series of threats, Mrs. B.’s sister “arranged” for the involvement of a police officer, Mrs. U., and old friend of hers. After the deposition of a written note that Mrs. B.’s health had worsened, the police officer, Mrs. U., broke into Mrs. B.’s home under the pretext of care for her condition. She attempted to force Mrs. B. to sign a document; the refusal got her mad and she applied physical force. No explanations or demands about rights proved helpful. Every attempt Mrs. B. made to protect herself only made things worse. In the end, Mrs. B. started screaming for help, leaning out of the window. This behavior was immediately interpreted as a manifestation of a psychic disorder and officer U. called for backup. It was not until then that an arrest warrant was issued. Mrs. B. was not allowed to exercise her right to make a phone call, which she had asked for and to which she was entitled, nor did she get any explanation as to the grounds for her detention. Hours later,
In the Town of the Apostle of Liberty Valko STANEV “About the Bulgarians” is the title of a website on the hit.bg server. The site features a collage of a Nazi eagle stepping on the Bulgarian coat-of-arms. A swastika is painted on our national flag. The biographies of Hitler and his Third Reich collaborators are published on the site, which is abundant with praise of the white race and quotes from Hitler’s infamous book, My Fight. The site also shows pictures on which neo-Nazis are beating gypsies. On other pictures, skinheads in military uniforms are raising hands in a Nazi salute in front of Vasil Levski’s monument. The two cyber skinheads are activists of Ataka’s Karlovo structure. One of them, Svetozar Yankov, 21, is a member of the parliamentary represented party Ataka. His father, Argir Yankov, formerly an officer at the Ministry of the Interior, is currently employed by the Scorpio security company. During the presidential elections last year, Svetozar Yankov was a member of an electoral committee. Computer systems, CDs and numerous volumes of Nazi literature were found during the search of his home. The two Nazi website creators were arrested in a special raid of the Fight Against Organized Crime Chief Directorate and the National Police Service in Karlovo. The operation was supervised by the Plovdiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office. The policemen targeted the two computer-literate skinheads in early December last year. The website was closed after the raid and an investigation was initiated. “If the arrested neo-Nazis have no prior convictions, they may get away with a fine that would not exceed 1,000 lv.,” said the Plovdiv Regional prosecutor, Andrey Atanasov. The second person, Ivailo M., a 19-year-old student at the Hristo Prodanov Secondary School, is known as a very good student and, apart from his support for Ataka, has no record of anti-social offences. On Wednesday, January 31, 2007, the local Ataka structures will defend their members and activists in paid messages to the media. The Plovdiv Regional Investigation Office has launched an investigation. Charges were brought against the two detainees under Art. 108 and Art. 162 of the Penal Code.
> she was transferred to a psychiatric dispensary. There, she was prescribed treatment without being examined by a specialist and despite her entreaties that she was allergic. Several hours later, she was transferred to a psychiatric hospital, where she was treated for a week without her consent, under the compulsion that she would never be released if she did not take her medication. For a while, the staff met her stories about her trips abroad, her professional competence and workplace with irony. Fortunately, at the end of this period, one of the doctors decided to verify her words and was amazed to find out that everything was true. |This, however, did not stop the filing of an involuntary commitment lawsuit against Mrs. B. The case was dismissed. Even the prosecution called the trial “a farce” and withdrew the case. Mrs. B.’s physical traumas healed shortly after her release from the psychiatric hospital. The effects of the humiliation and abuse, the rage and helplessness, the mistrust in the police and the inability to find a mechanism to seek liability, however, will remain with her for an indefinite period of time.
These stories did not occur outside our usual everyday life. They happened on workdays, in front of passing citizens. No one recognized a problem. How then, could we expect justice in places that are completely outside the public eye, in the social care homes and psychiatric clinics where, at least on paper, errors do not occur? The death cases are inevitably attributed to the victims. And the relatives remain with their grief in neverending uncertainty... But these are other stories that have a different ending. OBEKTIV 5