Suppression of Free Speech in the recent conference on “Macedonian Studies” at the University of Utah

The following text was published in the MGSA-L by Dr Christos D. Katsetos and describes an incident taking place in the recent conference at the University of Utah.  Irene Damopoulou, a victim of the Paidomazoma, was outrageously denied the right to share her own experiences, simply because her perspective is entirely different from the one that the well-known circles wish to promote. This is a blow against free speech, and it demostrates in gory detail the full hypocrisy of some people.


As someone who has vehemently opposed from the  outset any form of political interference with the “7th Macedonian-North American Conference” at the University of Utah, I am obliged to report an incident which, in my view, infringes on the right to freedom of speech.

Irene Damopoulou-Karatzios, an expatriate bilingual Greek Macedonian, who was present at the conference,  was disallowed, by the speaker of one of the presentations, to express a dissenting perspective (during the allotted Q&A period) concerning a local Slavonic dialect spoken in the Kastoria region of Greek Macedonia but most importantly, to offer a personal account of her very own childhood experiences dating back to the fateful days of “Παιδομάζωμα”, i.e., the “Evacuation” or “Abduction” of Children (depending on different  perspectives) during the Greek Civil War (1946-49)[1].

Even though I was not physically present at the conference, I have had the opportunity to speak on this matter with Mrs. Damopoulou-Karatzios, whom I know personally and deeply respect. I believe that her grievance has merit and have no reason whatsoever to doubt the veracity of her statements.

It is noteworthy that Irene Damopoulou-Karatzios was  also portrayed -by another speaker who was also Chair of the 10th Session at the same conference- in demeaning  terms as “a person who spoke the odd jumble of speech  borrowed from all over that some claimed to be a dialect of the so-called Macedonian language”. This is a sheer  attempt to belittle and humiliate -effectively to victimize- one of the victims of the “Paidomazoma” saga, just because it so happens that this individual subscribes to a different point of view.

Silencing a legitimate eyewitness in a condescending manner at an academic conference, on the grounds of dissent, infringes upon the academic code governing freedom of  expression and standards of conduct. 

The pursuit of knowledge calls for the free exchange of ideas and perspectives as well as the open expression of divergent opinions. The ability to participate in a fair and open debate is fundamentally hindered if the speaker of a presentation or the Chair/Moderator of a session decide to suppress dissenting opinions by exercising their “prerogative” to stifle discourse and cut off dialogue.

Everyone is entitled to dignity and fair treatment. This includes both scholars and non-scholars (lay members of an audience) including credible eyewitnessesof voluntary or involuntary evacuations or forced migrations. I submit that Mrs. Damopoulou was denied the common courtesy of being heard and respected as a member of the Greek Macedonian community during the University of Utah conference.

Indeed, what Irene Damopoulou has experienced both during and after the conference [2], is precisely the kind of dehumanization and disentitlement that is considered as one of the basic psychological substrates underlying the  perpetuation of ethnic conflicts. 

Christos D. Katsetos


[1] Ioannis Bougas, “Η Φωνή της Ειρήνης” (The Cry of Irene) – the true story of a young girl, Irene Damopoulou from Kastoria, Greek Macedonia unfolding during the  years of the Greek Civil war (1946-1949)

[2] See statement posted in a public list (MakNews) by one of the speakers and session chairs at the University of Utah conference


Blog’s note: You can read the testimony of Mrs Irene Damopoulou in the book of Ioannis Bougas “THE CRY OF IRENE”. Excerpts of the book can be found in the following links [1][2]


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