A society in which basic human rights are stepped upon is not supposed to exist in the 21st century. Unfortunately, they do, right in the heart of the European Union – Bulgaria to be specific. For a second month in a row Bulgarian students have been collecting signatures, in front of Sofia University, in support of the initiative for a national referendum on electoral reform to be carried out.

Generally, things in Bulgaria started to heat up at the beginning of 2013 when people wanted a change of political powers and rebelled against high costs of utilities, low living standards and the failure of the democratic system. With persistence and determination, Bulgarians succeeded in their protests, making GERB resign in defeat on 20 February 2013. A change of power came with a coalition of three parties (BSP, DPS, Ataka) and one opposition (GERB – PM Rosen Plevneliev) taking the power in their hands. Nevertheless, things started to change from bad to worse. Some were still unsatisfied and went out on the streets to protest against the coalition, demanding again a change of power for a better life and higher living standards.

It was not until October 2013 that Bulgarian students also decided to bring forward their demands for a change of power and went on the streets to protest. From the very beginning, student riots have been looked down upon by world media as the government remained deaf to students’ demanding their resignation. That was, until one of the major and largest Bulgarian educational institutions, Sofia University, was occupied by student protesters, proving to the rest of the world that despite being labelled (by the Bulgarian government) as the bottom of society, they would not back down until their ultimatums are fulfilled.

From this point on, the student movement rapidly escalated with many other Bulgarian Universities joining in the fight for justice. The threat of ever-increasing student power coupled with the determination of students to overthrow the current system (claiming power in Bulgaria is only in the hands of the corrupt political elite), the government started to feel threatened. Sending countless numbers of police officers to the student riots in front of the Parliament in Sofia and in front of different protesting universities, especially Sofia University, the government tried to stop the outbreak of this student enthusiasm spreading across the people. And it almost succeeded- the occupied Sofia University was blocked by police officers, preventing students from reaching their targeted protest destination (the Parliament), demanding that students did not have the right to protest, when in fact, they did!

The right of every citizen of the Republic of Bulgaria to protest is written in the Bulgarian Constitution: “Art. 43. (1) Citizens have the right to peaceful and unarmed meetings and demonstrations.” Unfortunately, students were still stepped upon, with the authority refusing to acknowledge their rights to protest. Beaten and bruised by the police, some students were forcefully made to plead guilty for carrying out acts which they have every right to do. This, in turn, breaks another right outlined by the Constitution of Bulgaria: “Art.31 (2) Nobody can be forced to plead guilty or be convicted solely on the basis of his confessions.” Refusing to back down, students carried out with their protest throughout the middle of December 2013.

It seems that now, having lost major support from fellow students and other citizens of the Republic, some students are still trying to bring a change in some form or another. On Facebook, the page “Early Students” is still one of the main means of correspondence for student needs. However, now you can find people calling them cowards, liars, etc. Some accuse them of wanting to bring back the old government, or of them being paid to protest. Unfortunately, as a small country, Bulgaria had some of its issues either misreported or completely ignored by worldwide media. Despite the fact that the protests were mentioned by some major media outlets in Europe and the USA, they were so scarcely touched that it is almost impossible to reflect on the political mood in Bulgaria by just relaying the message. A quick search on the Internet with the inclusion of Google Translate would have given you some insight into what is really going on. But these issues aren’t supposed to be searched for, they should be shown for everyone interested to find out how finally people in Bulgaria have started to wake up from their political slumber, ready to bring about change.

True, there were student riots, and YES, almost half of the capital (Sofia) was blocked by the persistent student protesters, but why did the worldwide media chose to ignore reporting on these issues? We all know that it is a small Eastern European country and that some would even fail to point it out on a map. Nevertheless, it would have been only fair if its political issues were reported equally with other political issues from the rest of the world. The truth was that by stopping to report on them, world media halted the support of the world towards them.
Bulgarian students are not giving up. Be it through collecting signatures or violent clashes, this young part of Bulgaria’s society is there to show people that there is hope and that they are the faces of a better future.

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