Will youth lead the way in Bosnia?
Young citizens of Europe’s poorest nation tackle Bosnia’s troubled past.
April 6 marks the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian war and 1,425-day Sarajevo siege, which was the longest siege of a capital city in modern history. The war lasted from 1992 to 1995 and left at least 100,000 dead. By 1995, the US-brokered peace agreement, referred to as the Dayton Accords, created present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The video below, posted by RealWarFilms, is a documentary about the events leading up to the Sarajevo siege.
- Another YouTube user tmuamer posted the video which captures a street battle during the siege near the Hotel Bristol in Sarajevo.
- As the map below shows, Bosnia is now divided into two autonomous entities: Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina covers 51 per cent of Bosnia and is predominantly Bosniak-Croat. Republika Srpska covers 49 per cent of the country and is predominantly made up of Bosnian Serbs.
Following a 16-month political stalemate, the Bosnian parliament approved a new central government in February. Ethnopolitics have been hotly contested particularly because the Bosnian constitution only allows the highest political offices to be held by members of the country’s three main ethnic groups: Serbs, Bosniaks and Croats. This provision violates several clauses in the European Convention on Human Rights and excludes the political participation of Jewish and Roma people, two of 17 minority populations in Bosnia.
The video below from World Learning features youth perspectives on the struggles of ethnicity and nationality in Bosnia.
With 18.6 per cent of the population living below the poverty line and an unemployment rate of 43 per cent, Bosnia faces significant development challenges. New technologies are being used by civil society and some youth-led groups, to fill government gaps, either by facilitating social services or fostering public debate during a time of political transition. To address high unemployment, initiatives like Posao.ba were created to serve as a database for job seekers.
- In the video below, a Bosnian youth shares his experience with the lack of employment and the growing brain drain in Bosnia.
Ethnic divisions continue to impact Bosnian youth and this is most apparent in the education system, which is separated by ethnic group. It is common to find textbooks which omit events after 1990 and some schools even house two schools, separating classes by ethnic group.
- Recently, Bosniak students in Srebrenica protested the academic curriculum of their school because they believe the school's curriculum justified the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and that the school's policies supported discrimination amongst students.
Anonymous activist blogging is also becoming increasingly popular in providing counter-narratives to the mainstream media, especially in regards to how Bosnian history is told. For instance, a blogger was responsible for organising the first public screening in Republika Srpska of recent movie, “In the Land of Blood and Honey.” In the video below, the film's director Angelina Jolie responds to criticism that the movie presents a historical bias against Serbs.
The long-term impact of the Bosnian war is also evident amongst women and war veterans. Despite policy promises to do so, the government has received criticism for inadequately providing assistance to survivors of wartime rape and sexual violence. War veterans have also taken to street protests in a call for pensions that have yet to be approved for the 2012 budget.
- Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a regional human rights organisation created by youth leaders, promotes transitional justice through information and education in Bosnia. One of their initiatives is the Srebrenica Map project which is a crowd-sourced map where users pinpoint locations of war crimes during the Bosnian War.
- Twitter and Facebook are emerging as online tools of networking and mobilisation among the Bosnian youth and diaspora. In Bosnia, there are over 250 youth organisations engaged in activism or education, a few of which are shown below.
Youth Information Agency Bosnia-Herzegovina works on youth policy development in order to improve the lives of Bosnian youth.
- Below is the Facebook page of a popular youth-led organisation, Omladinski Pokret Revolt (Youth Movement Revolt), which was active during the October 2010 elections.
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