Written by Tihomir Hristov exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Alexandros Spiliotis
Earlier this year, SouthFront reported about the rising number of cases of xenophobia by Bulgarians towards refugees crossing the Bulgarian-Turkish border illegally. Many Bulgarians took up arms and formed civilian patrols, which now number approximately 1500 people. They are known to have connections to the Russian biker group “The Night Wolves” and some even allege that they are trained by Russian ex-military. In June 2016, a group calling itself “Bulgarian National Movement/Shipka” went as far as to organise tactical exercises on the border. Recently, another group named “Bulgarian Military Veterans Union” received 2 notorious new members: Edwin Wagensveld, a Dutch PEGIDA leader, and Tatjana Festerling, an ex-PEGIDA deputy from Germany. They called upon all “men of Europe” to travel to Bulgaria and join them in their anti-refugee struggle.
However, ISIS supporters, seemingly disturbed by this rising trend of European nationalists travelling to the Turkish border, put a $50.000 bounty on the head of the most popular “Bulgarian vigilante”, named Dinko Valev. When asked if he’s frightened by the offer, his reply was: “Some Islamic state is offering $50.000 for my head. I saw it on the Internet. At first it was $5.000, then $10.000, it could become $100.000 soon”. “I have a U.S. citizenship; if I were afraid of something, I would have moved there”, Valev continued. The wrestler is the only Bulgarian to be included in an ISIS “kill list”, which includes over 1000 people in total.
In February 2016, he single-handedly tackled a couple of refugees who attacked him. After taking them down, another dozen came out of the forest, looking to surrender. Mr. Valev was initially commended for his courageous act, even by Bulgaria’s Prime Minister. Later, though, he and his migrant-hunting practices were slammed by human rights watchdogs, such as the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. The very same committee recently was alleged to have initiated the release of Ahmed Chataev, the alleged mastermind behind the Istanbul airport attack. The human rights activists have issued a press release, denying their involvement in the case. Chataev was arrested on the Bulgarian-Turkish border in 2011, but it is unclear when he was released.
The charges that were issued against Dinko Valev are on grounds of “committing crimes against people seeking refuge, and disturbance of the law and order in the country”. He is to attend a trial at the Regional court of Sofia in the near future, and he is facing incarceration of between 1 to 4 years. The 29-year-old still claims that he was attacked by refugees, since they entered his country illegally, and not the opposite. “If they (the refugees) hadn’t come to me, I wouldn’t have found them. I feel betrayed”, Mr. Valev added.
Dinko claims that it has been a long time since he visited the border since, and has promised not to go there anymore. However, he admits that he has sent people close to him to patrol the border.