Bosnian uprising awakes over the immense difference between rich and poor

Article published on Feb. 10, 2014
Article published on Feb. 10, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

A hun­gry man is an angry man. He who sows mis­ery, reaps anger. These are the yes­ter­day writ­ten graf­fiti on Sara­jevo's burned gov­ern­ment and pres­i­dency build­ings. Fri­day's vi­o­lent protests ended up by burn­ing build­ings of the gov­ern­ments in many Bosn­ian cities, such as Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar and Sara­jevo. Pro­test­ers also burned the build­ings of the eth­nic Bosniak and Croa­t­ian po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Mostar. This was done to­gether by Bosni­aks and Croats, who do not be­lieve in eth­nic di­vi­sion any­more, who are hun­gry, un­em­ployed and tired of empty promises.

Bosn­ian pro­test­ers were mainly work­ers and un­em­ployed youth, but today they are mainly pre­sented in Bosn­ian media as "hooli­gans who de­stroyed cul­tural mon­u­ments"., Politi­cians try to di­vide the na­tion again through their media, those who are pro vi­o­lence and those against vi­o­lence, and they suc­ceed in it. Sur­vey on the biggest Bosn­ian news por­tal Klix.​ba says at this mo­ment that there are 6547 peo­ple who jus­tify yes­ter­day's vi­o­lence and 5206 that don't. In for­eign media no­body writes about hooli­gans, all of them re­port about over­all dis­sat­is­fac­tion, un­em­ploy­ment, cor­rup­tion and hunger. Those who de­stroyed the build­ings yes­ter­day are all un­em­ployed youth, cheated work­ers and peo­ple with no fu­ture. Their bad fu­ture is being pro­duced in the gov­ern­ment build­ings for ages. Last two decades au­thor­i­ties taught us to hate, taught us to bribe, taught us to keep silent, never say­ing any­thing against them­selves and al­ways di­rect­ing to those who are sup­pos­edly a dif­fer­ent na­tion. That's the Bosn­ian pre­sent sit­u­a­tion. We are learned to hate and learned to de­stroy, noth­ing else than that. 50% of us are dis­em­pow­ered and robbed by those who sit in these burned build­ings. Other 50% got their po­si­tions there, mainly through cor­rupted ways, with­out proper job pro­ce­dures, with­out proper ten­ders and only thanks to rel­a­tives' con­nec­tion, po­lit­i­cal par­ties' obe­di­ence and other cor­rup­tive be­hav­iour.

Bad pri­va­ti­za­tions and no re­spon­si­bil­ity for them

When Sara­jevo's Gov­ern­ment build­ing was on fire, my mom was across the street, look­ing at it and cry­ing. At the same time she is 62 and re­tired after 40 years of work­ing, but is still tak­ing care of a friends' kid, be­cause her pen­sion of 160 € is not even enough for the house over­heads. After the war, in 1996, com­pany Ma­gros where she worked re­mained in good con­di­tions and could have con­tin­ued work­ing, own­ing four shop­ping malls in the city cen­tre and loads of other fa­cil­i­ties. Un­for­tu­nately, thanks to gov­ern­ment thieves Ma­gros doesn't exist any­more, along with many other com­pa­nies that used to be in state own­er­ship. Bad pri­va­ti­za­tion took place all over the coun­try and many of their em­ploy­ees even died wait­ing for jus­tice. No­body was ever sued or processed for these pri­va­ti­za­tions, and no­body even shed a tear for these com­pa­nies. There has been no will­ing gov­ern­ment to pro­tect these work­ers over the last 17 years. There'd been hun­dreds, even thou­sands of peace­ful protests after the war and none of them suc­ceeded. The Fri­day's vi­o­lent protests are just a sign that peo­ple are com­pletely fed up with pre­sent ways of gov­ern­ment dis­func­tion­ing. They have noth­ing to lose, noth­ing to care about, noth­ing to be busy with in­stead of de­stroy­ing. My mom just re­mem­bered the war, but later on she re­al­ized that peo­ple in these build­ings share re­spon­si­bil­ity for our bad past, cat­a­strophic pre­sent and prob­a­bly even worse fu­ture.

35 year olds who never worked and still live at par­ents

Those who are named as hooli­gans are ei­ther cheated work­ers, or young­sters in their twen­ties or thir­ties, born in 80s and 90s and have never had a proper job, never felt state re­spon­si­bil­ity and never met nor­mal life con­di­tions. Many of them still live at par­ents' houses and can­not even think about found­ing fam­i­lies, be­cause of re­sources' lack and with­out any pos­i­tive life per­spec­tive. None of them feels sorry for the build­ings that are sym­bols of peren­nial rob­bery within the state's in­sti­tu­tions. My friend who was protest­ing yes­ter­day told me that at the be­gin­ning he shed some tears for the mu­nic­i­pal­ity build­ing (which was col­lat­eral dam­age in the end), but when he re­mem­bered all the fixed ten­ders while he worked there, he stopped feel­ing sorry. An­other one told me, after he came back from the protests, that he only feels sorry that Syn­di­cate's build­ing wasn't de­stroyed, be­cause that's also a sym­bol of cor­rup­tion and po­lit­i­cal obe­di­ence. Bosn­ian Trade Union, even though there are al­most a half un­em­ployed pop­u­la­tion, never or­ga­nized any se­ri­ous protests, never fought for work­ers' rights and never re­spected or­di­nary peo­ple. Syn­di­cate mem­bers were on the po­lit­i­cal par­ties' payslips and never had a proper rea­son to stop obey­ing them. 

The sit­u­a­tion is so se­ri­ously bad that even though we sur­vived the war, we still don't have a proper fire­men's be­cause some­one stole the money for it. Gov­ern­ment cuts teach­ers' salaries, they cut stu­dent ex­penses, cut fire­men ex­penses, but they never cut their own salaries, which are the high­est in the re­gion, higher even than in EU mem­ber state Croa­tia, and twice as higher than in Ser­bia. To in­sure so­cial peace, au­thor­i­ties keep tak­ing loans from the IMF, and don't in­vest that money in fac­to­ries, but for their own salaries, which is a non-sense, known only in The Balkans.

After these protests, noth­ing will be the same any­more. What will be the so­lu­tion for the fu­ture, no­body pre­cisely knows. Pro­test­ers don't have a leader and didn't form pre­cise aims. Peo­ple men­tion ad­min­is­tra­tion re­duc­tion, nul­li­fi­ca­tion of the Bosn­ian can­tons and many other dif­fer­ent things. Will it hap­pen or not, we'll see in the com­ing months, but the fact is that Bosn­ian or­di­nary peo­ple will not suf­fer any­more by keep­ing silent. Two can­ton gov­ern­ments fell yes­ter­day. Sara­jevo Can­ton gov­ern­ment fell few min­utes ago. The next one is en­tity gov­ern­ment. Let's hope for new elec­tions and more se­ri­ous ap­proach to state af­fairs after this. There are plenty so­lu­tions for im­prove­ment. Maybe cypri­sa­tion is one of them, in the eth­ni­cally di­vided state, where peo­ple are hun­gry but still love their na­tional sym­bols. He, who doesn’t want to join Bosn­ian South Cyprus, can also stay at North. But with the 80 € pen­sion and cult of prime min­is­ter Milo­rad Dodik, who also suf­fers watch­ing Sochi Olympic Games. Maybe this is his last trip.