A Macedonian news outlet has recently revealed the existence of public, organized “gladiator fights” between minors in the capital Skopje in a story that left citizens astounded.
SamoPrasaj.mk reporters obtained a video showing two boys fighting in a playground while dozens of onlookers, mostly adults, cheer on. A referee can also be spotted in the video.
Residents interviewed in the video say that these fights take place frequently, but that the participants are not from the neighborhood.
A follow-up story by SamoPrasaj.mk revealed that the fight's organizers charge entrance fees, too: 20 denars (less than half of a US dollar) for watching and 300 denars (6 dollars) for recording.
Поголемиот син беше запознаен и знае дека вакви настани се случуваат. Не бил присутен, но ми кажа дека тоа е нешто „нормално за нивна возраст“. Јас бев премногу вознемирена кога го слушнав тоа и му објаснив дека тоа не е нормална реакција на деца да си ги одмеруваат силите. Син ми ми кажа дека се наплаќало за гледање, меѓу другото дека се наплаќало 300 денари ако сакаш да ја снимаш борбата со мобилен телефон.
My elder son told me he knew that these events were happening. He doesn't attend them, but he told me that it was “a normal thing for his age.” I was very upset when I heard that, and explained to him that it is not normal for children to participate into such fighting matches. My son has also informed me that watching the fights came with a charge, including a 300 denars (6 dollars) charge for filming the fight with a mobile phone.
Global Voices contacted eighth-grade students from a school near the playground where one of the videos was recorded. They said they had classmates who have attended those fights, and added that the organizers charge 50 denars (1 USD) per “standard tickets” and 200 denars (3.50 USD) for “VIP” spots in the first row next to the ring.
Meanwhile, local media alleged that the adults attending the fights are also engaging in betting.
It is still unclear whether the police will investigate the events, whose organizers are yet to be identified. In response to an inquiry by newspaper Sloboden Pechat, the Ministry of Interior stated that authorities had taken measures such as notifying the public prosecutor and recommending the police addresses the matter in educational lectures it gives in schools.
Many Macedonians have been dissatisfied with the official responses so far. When reporters approached Minister of Education Arbër Ademi, he merely said that, because the fights take place outside of schools, the ministry has no authority over them.
The playground where the videos were recorded is located in the municipality of Centar, and all nearby schools are under its authority. Still, Mayor Sasha Bogdanovikj claims the children who appear in the videos are not residents of the municipality.
Организирани борби на малолетници, што се наплаќаат за забава, и тоа во Капиштец? Ако тоа се случува во центар на Скопје, да очекуваме дека на други места се одгледуваат деца за борба? Луда Макседонија, жална и назадна
— Meri Batakoja (@mei_botata) February 8, 2020
Organized fights of underage kids, as a form of pay-per-view entertainment, and all that taking place in Kapishtec neighborhood? If such a thing is taking place in the center of Skopje, should we expect that in other places children had been raised to do these battles? Macedonia as crazy, pitiful and backward.
In recent years, similar fighting events involving children have been reported in different places worldwide, including Alberta, Canada; St Louis, United States; in Preston, Great Britain; and Moscow, Russia.
Half of the students aged 13 to 15 worldwide – around 150 million – report having experienced peer-to-peer violence (physical fights and bullying) in and around school according to a 2018 report by UNICEF. According to Macedonian human rights group Helsinki Committee, who recently issued a statement demanding authorities take action against the children “fight clubs,” 42 percent of students aged 13 and 15 in North Macedonia have reported experiencing peer violence.
Other analyses have shown that a significant proportion of victims (36 percent) and perpetrators (18 percent) of hate crimes in North Macedonia are minors. Ethnicity and political affiliation constituted the main grounds for hate crimes in 2018, with a smaller number of incidents involving refugee or migrant status, religious belief, and disability.