LOI: Local Observatories on Islamophobia, the first meeting in Bulgaria

The MEET project wants to contribute to detect information on episodes of Islamophobia as well as good practices or examples of positive integration in the 6 countries where it is implemented.

This task is performed by the LOIs Local Obsevatories on Islamphobia.

In each partner country a LOI is set up to

  • monitor acts of racism and discrimination against Muslim women,
  • analyze issues that hinder social cohesion and
  • collect data, examples and stories about the positive contribution of Muslim people to the social and economic development of their countries of residence.

The final goal of these bodies is to draw up a plan to be presented to local authorities.

The first LOI meeting has taken place in Bulgaria on the 22.01, the project partner Partners Bulgaria Foundation invited a group of activists, academics, government representatives and journalists to participate and help create a Plan combating discrimination towards Muslim girls and women and to advise the Bulgarian project team while implementing the MEET project activities. The group who constitutes the Bulgarian LOI consisted of 6 members:

  • Bistra Ivanova, Chair of the Board, Multiculti Collective, a civil society activists and one of the advocates for social inclusion of migrant communities.
  • Aysun Avdjiev, Chief Secretary at the Institution of Ombudsman of Republic of Bulgaria and active voice against discrimination against minorities.
  • Tsecilia Rangelova, School advisor and psychologist at the Sofia Fashion and Design Professional College, who has a long experience in development of educational programs and initiatives for intercultural communication and interaction; gender equality and protection of vulnerable women.
  • Professor Plamen Makariev, Sofia University St.Kl.Ohridski, expert in ethnic minorities’ issues who chairs an academic program for ethnic and minorities studies.
  • Mine Adali Radoikov, journalist at the Bulgarian National Television, who is reading the news in Turkish language and is known for her activities that bring minority groups closer together.
  • Rumen Minkovski, lecturer at the Sofia University St.Kl.Ohridski, who is expert in ethnic minority issues and who has a long experience in design and implementation of programs aiming at empowering minorities and vulnerable groups.

All participants agreed to be part of this observatory organ and to commit to the project.
They already started their job identifying the two municipalities to which the action plan could be proposed. They are the capital, Sofia and Razgrad a city located in the north east region of the country, where there is a relevant presence of the Turkish minority.
In terms of the Community Combating Islamophobia Action Plan, the experts suggested that the plan should focus on awareness rising and dissemination of positive examples of cooperation and interaction between the immigrant community of women and the local population, sharing cases of successful women’s achievements and contributions to society; cooperating with schools and other community institutions to spread the messages of tolerance, acceptance and inclusion.

The Bulgarian LOI will meet again during next months, compatibly with COVID19 emergency mobility restrictions, to carry on its job and produce the Action plan combating discrimination towards Muslim girls and women.