The Movement for Rights and Freedoms
With 120,000 members, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) was the fourth largest political organization in Bulgaria in 1991, but it occupied a special place in the political process. The leader of the movement, Ahmed Dogan, was imprisoned in 1986 for opposition to the Zhivkov policy of assimilating ethnic Turks. Founded in 1990 to represent the interests of the Turkish ethnic minority, the MRF gained twentythree seats in the first parliamentary election that year, giving it the fourth-largest parliamentary voting bloc. Its agenda precluded mass media coverage or building coalitions with other parties, because of the strong anti-Turkish element in Bulgaria's political culture. By mid-1991, the UDF had held only one joint demonstration with the MRF; their failure to reconcile differences was considered a major weakness in the opposition to the majority BSP. In early 1990, the MRF protested vigorously but unsuccessfully its exclusion from national round table discussions among the major Bulgarian parties.
In 1991 the MRF broadened its platform to embrace all issues of civil rights in Bulgaria, aiming "to contribute to the unity of the Bulgarian people and to the full and unequivocal compliance with the rights and freedoms of mankind and of all ethnic, religious, and cultural communities in Bulgaria." The MRF took this step partly to avoid the constitutional prohibition of political parties based on ethnic or religious groups. The group's specific goals were ensuring that the new constitution protect ethnic minorities adequately; introducing Turkish as an optional school subject; and bringing to trial the leaders of the assimilation campaign in the 1980s. To calm Bulgarian nationalist resentment, the MRF categorically renounced Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and ambitions for autonomy within Bulgaria. Political overtures were made regularly to the UDF, and some local cooperation occurred in 1991. Although the MRF remained the fastest growing party in Bulgaria, however, the sensitivity of the Turkish issue caused official UDF policy to keep the MRF in isolation.
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