MINELRES: OSCE HCNM Press Release: Linguistic cleansing underway in Transdniestria

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Sat Jul 17 18:55:23 2004

Original sender: Klemens Buescher <Klemens.Buescher@hcnm.org>

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

- Press Release - 

OSCE: Linguistic cleansing underway in Transdniestria

THE HAGUE/CHISINAU, 15 July 2004 - "Today's forced closure of the
Moldovan School in Tiraspol is nothing less than linguistic cleansing",
the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Rolf Ekeus, said on

He made the comment after local authorities in the break-away region of
Transdniestria (Moldova) surrounded Tiraspol School No. 20 with armed
police in the early morning hours and forcibly removed the school's
furniture and equipment. Parents and teachers attempted to block the
trucks carrying the materials but they were also forcibly removed by

The Transdniestrian action is especially provocative as it comes one day
after the OSCE High Commissioner visited the school. He had received
assurances from the local authorities that legal registration of all the
schools could be allowed within one week.

"I am deeply disappointed by this illegal and inhuman action today in
Tiraspol," said the High Commissioner. "It is further evidence of the
Transdniestrian disregard for basic human rights and education
standards. This indifference is damaging to thousands of children who
are being used by the Transdniestrian authorities as pawns in a
political game".

The Tiraspol school remains surrounded by police and access is blocked
to parents and teachers. This unprecedented and reprehensible measure is
the latest by local authorities in a long-standing campaign designed to
force the closure of all schools in the region which teach
Moldovan/Romanian in the Latin script. 

In the City of Benderi (Tighina) the authorities recently shut off the
water supply to a Moldovan school used by handicapped children. Other
schools have had their property and utility contracts revoked. 

In a campaign of intimidation against schoolchildren and parents, the
local broadcast media are announcing that all of the schools will be
closed. In meetings with parents, directors and teachers, the OSCE has
heard of a pattern of harassment by the local authorities reminiscent of
forced assimilation efforts in other conflict regions.

An estimated 40% of the population in the Transdniestrian region has
Moldovan/Romanian as their mother tongue. Approximately five thousand
pupils have been studying the language in the Latin script for over ten
years. However, Transdniestrian authorities claim that Moldovan is only
an official language of the region when it is written in Cyrillic
script, as it was in the Soviet Union. 

"The clear will of the parents of these children is that they should
learn in the Latin script," Ambassador Ekeus said. "This must be
respected by the Transdniestrian authorities."

In 2003, after months of effort, the OSCE brokered a formula to allow
the schools to be legally registered with local authorities in

"We went to great lengths to meet Transdniestrian concerns", said
Ambassador William Hill, Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova. "But the
agreement has been torpedoed at every step by the same authorities. The
forced closure of the school in Tiraspol is scandalous and
irresponsible. This is hardly the behaviour of a reliable negotiating

The OSCE is urging the Transdniestrian authorities to implement the
agreement signed in 2003 for the schools to function unhindered while a
broader accord on their status is being discussed.