ALJAZEERA, 5 October 2003.

Bulgaria's young Turks embrace old ritual

Sunday 05 October 2003, 13:15 Makka Time, 10:15 GMT
circumcision victims

Muslim boys about to enjoy the freedoms of post-communist era

Nearly 1000 people from Bulgaria's ethnic Turkish minority have taken part in a mass circumcision ceremony for young boys, a Muslim ritual that was suppressed during communist times.

A procession of parents carried the boys, aged two to five and clad in white shirts and blue hats, through the mainly Muslim town of Kardjali on Saturday.

A team of doctors waited at the town's main mosque to carry out the procedure.

Mass circumcision ceremonies are organised without charge for poor families.

Kardjali, in the southern Rhodope mountains, is the centre of Bulgaria's Turkish minority, which represents about 10% of the Balkan country's population of eight million.

The country's Turkish Muslims previously suffered significant discrimination and mistreatment, notably in the mid-1980s, under a policy of Bulgarisation and cultural assimilation.

As a result, a large number of Bulgarian Turks fled to Turkey.

But most of them returned after the fall of communism, and in recent years they have enjoyed more legal protection of their cultural identity.

(File prepared 6 October 2003)