Friday, June 28, 2013

Bosnia - What's Going Down?

Yesterday an iconic 60's protest song came on the car radio as I was formulating this second post about the current protests in Bosnia. The intro and chorus is well known

'I think it's time we stop, children - what's that sound? Everybody look what's going down'...

and is totally infectious. I sang along and thought about how fitting this song is for the current #occupy/protest movements around the globe.

Along with Bulgaria, Turkey, Brazil and other countries - Bosnians are in the streets emphatically showing that they are fed up. Ultimately, they plan to 'fire' their politicians for not doing their job.

I love how things have turned into a sort of family picnic gone ballistic, though thankfully all involved are coherent and are dedicated to non violent civil disobedience. No one knows better than the Bosnians how quickly events can escalate to full blown conflict.

The initial complaint on the 5th of June saw a few hundred people gathering to protest the implementation of a long overdue legislation amendment regarding identification numbers for newborns. The safety of Bosnian children became the motivator and the protests swelled into the streets. The Baby-lution moniker was born.

Since then, thousands more, often  families, have come to the streets every day to declare their dissatisfaction with the elitist officials running the country. They stand, they eat, they hold up signs, they make music. They are together.

Years of psych games played by fear mongers on a population still working through the trauma of of unspeakable crimes committed on civilians has taken it's toll. Corrupt politicians have been using institutionalized ethnic division as a tool to keep the 'status quo'. That has kept an insular elitist structure in place for twenty years.

In the last three weeks, the hopelessness has been supplanted.  There are 'lines being drawn' and ultimatums have been posed.

Just two nights ago it was rumored that police from the opposition were checking out social media sites to single out 'instigators' in order to charge them. The infamous dark Bosnian humor showed it's face on Twitter in response.

Sarajevo 6/18 JMBG website

Nothing  this big has happened since Dayton and  though everyone is aware that the true test will come with the official elections in 2014, one imagines that the politicians must be nervous.

  So, what now?

JMBG, the most visible grassroots organization has given lawmakers till July 1st to come up with a solution. That is three days away.

Will they listen?

We will see on Monday,  when Bosnians stand together -  against  years of terrorization, corruption and institutionalized provocation -  in the that hope someone will hear the sound of the song they are singing.

'A thousand people in the street, singing songs and carrying signs Mostly saying, "hooray for our side"

                                      Rise Against - For What it's Worth

Monday, June 17, 2013

Bosnian Jewry

Amazing history found on this website . Stephanie Comfort is a collector of postcards and has one of the largest collections in the world, specifically relating to Jewish heritage. I am completely fascinated and will post a few pictures below of Balkan Jewish life.

I used this picture in one of my culture installations at the Governor's Residence last year. The Jewish community prospered in Bosnia, living side by side with their Bosnian Muslim neighbors, as one of the largest European centers for Sephardi Jewry outside of Spain.  Until 1944 there were roughly 20 thousand Jewish people living in Bosnia, mainly in cities.

Bosnian Jewess 
There are some other pictures of Jews in the South Slavic areas like this picture from Macedonia

Jewish men in Macedonia
and this portrait

Macedonian Man
Fascinating reading too, while looking for pictures I read for hours. One interview was with Ivan Ceresnjes chairman of the Jewish Community during the last war and Jakob Finci present day Community representative and Ambassador to Switzerland.
La Benevolencija
International Forum Bosnia/Sarajevo
Stephanie Comfort

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bosnia Awakens

I saw the first mention of protests in Sarajevo last Wednesday via an online Bosnian newspaper.  My heart beat faster as I read about a relatively small incident of protest in downtown Sarajevo, because my heart knows that anything blown out of proportion in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia could potentially lead to gruesome results. That, at least is the fear. What was the whole thing about, I wondered and quickly looked it up to find a few basic answers. I posted on Twitter and Facebook.  Not many people I knew where talking about it at all.

Bosnia's next generation, a sort of sleeping baby Hulk, has been kept complacent by the poisonous rhetoric of  'ethnic hatred'  and had not yet shown signs of anger, had yet to move, to act.
About anything.
Protesting seemed to lead to bad consequences in Bosnia, I had to wonder if a spark like this would once again put everyone in grave danger. Yet, - I felt excitement, happiness almost. I fantasized calling my friends to say I was on my way.

The Twitter hashtag #JMBG emerged to identify what it was all about, namely the "jedinstveni matični broj građana", the number assigned to individual citizens to identify their person and place of birth.

Initially a gathering by a few hundred people in front of the Parliament building, which happened to be in session occurred on Wednesday. The protesters gathered to vent a months long grievance about the non issuance of national ID numbers, the amendment for which has been stalled since February 2013. Citizens need the numbers to apply for passports and travel visas. The basic right of free movement was denied to Bosnians born after February.

Like Istanbul the week before and the various similar #Occupy movements that set precedence around the world, Sarajevo protesters met on a relatively small platform initially. Once the first step was taken though, the sleeping giant awakened. The realization that in numbers change could be made took over in a giddy, if cautious momentum forward
Four days later thousands stood together in downtown Sarajevo and demanded, albeit peacefully, that a resolution be found immediately regarding the ID numbers. The more organized and cohesive the protest the clearer the mantra: 'Do your Job', suggesting that the political representatives do the work they were elected to do. The police were called and came.  Some goons from the Republika Srpska tried to pawn off the  blockade of the Parliament building  on that first day as an ethnically motivated plot to intimidate the Serbian politicians of the group. People were outraged. Even more students and young people from all over Bosnia threw in their support and staged similar non-violent protests in a dozen other cities around the country, including the RS itself.

Suddenly, Bosnian citizens, who find themselves living in a country that is badly compromised by the memory of conflict, unresolved war crimes and a forced division stemming from the disastrous Dayton Accord, seemed to have awakened from their slumber like state.

Emboldened, the streets filled up. Largely aided by postings and updates on Twitter and Facebook showing endorsements from as far away as Chicago and the Congo, the drum beat went on. Even Belgrade and  Banja Luka sent messages that they were in solidarity.  Sarajevo youth became alive with purpose.

My heart goes out to the peaceful protesters of Bosnia.