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Protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina: live updates

By Balkanist and bhprotestfiles, 10 February 2014

The Balkanist blog is a good place to start looking for reliable coverage of the recent protests in Bosnia and the region, this post collects recent updates (as of Monday 10 February) and a short list of recommended reading. This is followed by further documents and statemtents by protesters reposted from Bosnia-Herzegovina Protest Files


Hello everyone. We’ve moved our live-ish feed here so you wouldn’t have to scroll through our entire story from yesterday to get to it. Send tips and photos to editor [AT]


2:10 PM EST: In contrast to the characterizations of participants in this week’s protests in Bosnia as “hooligans”, we offer you a video of this brave young woman, imploring police to join the crowd:



1:45 PM EST: We recommend several very smart articles about the events in Bosnia. Please note that there are other articles we do not recommend at all. Let us know if you have any suggestions, and we’ll evaluate their quality/suitability for our reading list:

On Protests in BH, Quickly and Darkly“, by Eric Gordy, Professor at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at the University of London (UCL) 

Is Change coming (Finally)? Thoughts on the Bosnian Protests“, by Florian Bieber, Professor in South East European Studies and the director of the Center for South East European Studies at the University of Graz

It’s spring at last in Bosnia and Herzegovina“, by Jasmin Mujanovic, a PhD candidate at York University and currently a Visiting Scholar at the Harriman Institute at Columbia University.

12:35 PM EST: There will be a protest in Zagreb, Croatia to show solidarity with Bosnian demonstrators on February 13 at 6 p.m. 

12:30 PM EST: The Director of the Directorate for Police Coordination of Bosnia and Herzegovina has resigned, proving with his former title just how bureaucratic the bureaucracy can really be here in the Balkans.

12:15 PM EST: The Prime Minister of Una-Sana canton, Hamdija Lipovacac, has refused demands to resign. At a press conference earlier today he said, “the police will not tolerate beatings any longer”. Follow him on Twitter @Lipovaca.

11:45 AM EST: A major Macedonian news aggregator has launched a Bosnian news aggregator in solidarity with the protesters in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Macedonian protesters have gathered today to demonstrate against the demolition of a forest park for a new government construction project.

11:15 AM EST: The U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo has released a statement about the protests, calling for an end to all violence but urging politicians to listen to the demands of citizens. In addition, the embassy rejected the efforts of some government officials “to use the protests to stoke fear and advance nationalist agendas.”

11:10 AM EST At least 1,000 protesters are gathered in Sarajevo, barricades are being built in various areas, and the atmosphere has been described as “tense”.

11:00 AM EST Workers have begun gathering in Tuzla for a plenum that will start in a few minutes. (On Twitter via @edinmusic).


10:50 AM EST Valentin Inzko, an Austrian citizen and the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the protests: ”If the situation escalates, we will possibly have to think about EU troops. But not right now.” The wife of the late Dayton Accords architect, Richard Holbrooke, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times late last year in which she claimed that Inzko spends just two day per week in Sarajevo, and spends the rest of the time “tending to his horse stables outside of Vienna.”

10:40 AM EST The two craziest conspiracy theories about the protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far have come from pro-Erdogan hardliners in Turkey and ultranationalist Serbs: 1) Protest-averse supporters of Erdogan say that anti-Milosevic Serbian youth movement Otpor!, which disbanded over a decade ago, “set historical buildings and archives on fire in Bosnia.” 2) The Serbian edition of Pravda (“Truth”) claims that “Germany controls the protests in both Bosnia and Ukraine”. 

10:30 AM EST A 15-year-old boy was just released from police custody and showed the crowd evidence that he was beaten both yesterday and today. (On Twitter via @VALERIEin140)


10:15 AM EST The Chief of Bosnia’s police coordination agency has just resigned. Reports say he is stepping down because he could no longer guarantee the government’s protection.

10:00 AM EST Special police officers are removing their helmets and joining protesters in Sarajevo, demanding the release of those detained during the protests of the past week:


9:55 AM EST Tomorrow (Monday), there will be a protest in central Belgrade to show solidarity with protesting workers in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The protest will focus on frustration with corrupt privatizations, a major problem in both Balkan countries. Commies and non-commies invited. More info here

9:45 AM EST The most powerful man in Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, met with his Bosnian Serb counterpart Milorad Dodik to discuss maintaining “stability” in light of the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 


12:25 PM EST About an hour ago, Prime Minister of Sarajevo canton, Suad Zeljkovic, resigned. He angered pretty much everybody on Thursday when he told reporters, “In Sarajevo, no one has reasons for unrest and actions like this. There is not a single unpaid salary, nor does any sector of society have reasons for dissatisfaction.”

12:20 PM EST Hamdija Lipovaca, Prime Minister of Bosnia’s Una-Sana canton, fled the country last night on a Croatian passport. He last tweeted 18 hours ago, after several people asked where he was. “I’m here, my good sir.”

12:00 PM EST Al-Jazeera has reported that at least 300 people have been injured since anti-government protests began in Tuzla earlier this week. 









“He who sows hunger reaps anger,” warned the red graffiti on a Sarajevo government building this week. The message hinted at the depth of poverty and disillusionment in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) that has driven people to join demonstrations across the divided country, where the unemployment rate is about 40 percent. Protesters have since stormed and ransacked government buildings in Tuzla, Zenica, Mostar, and in the capital city of Sarajevo, where the headquarters of the presidency was also set ablaze. Some protesters allegedly threw firecrackers and stones at police, who responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Hundreds have been injured. On Friday, activist Darko Brkan called the protests “a collective nervous breakdown”.

Demonstrations began on Tuesday in the northern city of Tuzla, where some 10,000 former workers gathered to demand that the local government investigate questionable privatizations they said had destroyed companies and their livelihood. Among the troubled firms was the Konjuh furniture factory, which was founded in 1885 by Austro-Hungarian entrepreneurs. During the socialist period, the company employed 5,300 employees and sold high-quality wood furnishings to clients on five continents. But by December 2012, the company employed just 400 workers, some of whom had gone on hunger strike. Also present were demonstrators from the 36-year-old Dita detergent factory— once the biggest producer of liquid detergents and washing powders in the country. Former Dita employees have protested over unpaid wages for at least two years.

The government of Tuzla canton told the crowd of largely middle-aged men that they had no authority over privately-owned companies. However, that may not have been entirely true. The majority of shareholders in the Konjuh furniture factory transferred their voting rights to the government of Tuzla canton several years ago.

Numerous protests have been held in Tuzla in recent years over the disappearance of jobs and the environmental devastation of what is now a post-industrial area. The Tuzla power station burns 330,000 tons of coal every year, and has seriously polluted the Jala River. Other pollutants have come from the factories, including chemical plants that have recently been shut down.

Many residents of Tuzla express Yugonostalgic sentiments, lamenting that the “reliable health service” and access to information offset some of their concerns about pollution in socialist times. They have long complained about being ignored by the authorities, and protests, pickets, hunger strikes, and sit-ins, in the former industrial boomtown are common.

The first clashes between police and protesters in Tuzla came on Wednesday, and continued through the following day. On Friday, dramatic images started appearing on Twitter: the local government building surrounded in still smouldering fires; broken computer monitors, scattered papers, and other debris thrown from the offices above; graffiti on facades calling on all politicians to resign.

Then the protests spread. Though most of the demonstrations were confined to the Federation — the Bosniak and Croat half of Bosnia and Herzegovina — several hundred Serbs showed up for a solidarity protest in Banja Luka, the Bosnian Serb capital.

Groups of organized protesters encouraged this kind of solidarity. A movement calling itself UDAR — the same name as opposition leader Vitali Klitshko’s political party in Ukraine — say they spontaneously formed this week as a response to the workers’ protests in Tuzla and are now “calling for an extension of the movement”. They’ve already produced a pretty sophisticated three-minutemobilization video available with both English and German subtitles. For UDAR, it’s important “that Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats are fighting together and reject the nationalism that is often used by the government to create splits between people.”

Despite the fact that many of them used determinedly anti-nationalist rhetoric, it was difficult for some diplomats to sympathize with the protesters after viewing images of plumes of black smoke rising over Sarajevo, cars (allegedly belonging to politicians) upside down in a drainage ditch, or reading news that historical archives from the Austro-Hungarian period had been incinerated in a fire.

Both the EU and United States were quick to issue condemnations of the “violent behavior”, which they described as “deplorable” and “inexcusable”. The EU thanked law enforcement agencies “for their efforts in extremely difficult circumstances.”

However, we received one report of possible police brutality from a journalist in Sarajevo: “I walked right past the old municipal building that protesters had just torched. A few minutes later, I watched a policeman billy-clubbing three protesters as other cops held them immobile.” There were alsoreports of police brutality earlier in the week.

The demonstrators blamed the police for all of the violence. A “Declaration by Workers and Citizens of the Tuzla Canton” released late Friday evening explained that, “Accumulated anger and rage are the causes of aggressive behaviour. The attitude of the authorities has created the conditions for anger and rage to escalate.”

Still, others have been left wondering how people across BiH could be so angry with the government that they would ransack and burn its buildings in several major cities.

Some believe the answer is built into the very foundation of the post-war state. The Dayton Peace Agreement, signed in Ohio in 1995, turned the country into a purgatory of two ethnically-segregated entities. Ever since, the international community’s guiding principle for building democracy in BiH has been “separate but equal”, with few positive results. Unfortunately, this has made it almost impossible for anyone to accept a supranational “Bosnian” identity.

In addition, ethnic elites have become the targets of scorn, and are increasingly viewed as corrupt servants of a dysfunctional system that keeps BiH hungry and poor, polarized and frozen. As another election approaches, the politicization of ethnicity and the ethnicization of politics appears even more absurd. As someone spray painted on the government building in Tuzla, “Death to nationalism”.


Bosnia-Herzegovina Protest Files

News, statements and documents about protests in BH …. translated!

Paulina Janusz: Political parties and media in BH united against the demonstrators

An opinion piece on the reaction to the first night of protest in Sarajevo. Thanks to Kontrapress for sharing. The propaganda machine in the service of the regime […]

Mostar Citizens’ Demands (Mostar #1)

Radio Sarajevo reports Mostar Demands: Resolving the status of workers from destroyed companies. Employment of social workers in elementary and high schools. Securing the funds for [support of] unemployed mothers. Raising […]

2nd Declaration of Sarajevo Citizens’ Plenum (Sarajevo #4)

DECLARATION Sarajevo, February 10, 2014 Peaceful protests in Sarajevo are continuing. We support protests in all cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We demand: 1. SECURITY MEASURES Not taking any steps […]

Bihac Citizens’ Demands (Bihac #1)

Protesters have sent their list of 13 demands to the Parliament of the Una-Sana Canton: Resignation and replacement of the Una-Sana Canton (USC) government and all directors of public institutions […]

Prijedor Citizens’ Demands (Prijedor #1)

Here are the clear demands of citizens: We demand resignations of all directors of public institutions in Prijedor! We demand concrete results in the struggle against corruption (autonomous functioning of […]

Zenica Protestors Deliver their Demands (Zenica #1)

Zenica Demands February 10th, 2014. Reported here originally. A background-primer to ecological situation in Zenica can be read about here. The first demand is for the Cantonal government to fulfill the agreement with […]

Declaration by RS Veterans Union (RS #1)

The simplistic, naive, and even cynical statement of the Prime Minister of the Government of Republic of Srpska (RS) about how the RS is stable, and, the threatening tone adopted […]

Manifesto of the Plenum of the Citizens of the Tuzla Canton (Tuzla #2)

February 9th, 2014 - Peaceful protests continue in Tuzla. We issue our support to all the protests in the various cities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Assembly of the Tuzla Canton, in keeping […]

Statement by the Belgrade Police Union (Belgrade #1)

Statement Regarding the Events in Bosnia (Original text here) February 7, 2014 A “Bosnian Spring” has begun to spread in Bosnia – a far reaching front of violent protests of […]

Declaration of the Sarajevo Citizens’ Plenum (#3)

9 February 2014 – We speak exclusively on behalf of those of us whose human dignity and physical existence has been threatened or destroyed during the transitional robbery, corruption, nepotism, […]

Protestor Demands from Sarajevo (#2)

This is based on the leaflets being passed around Sarajevo on February 9th, 2014 from a group calling itself “Ja BiH Bunt” (“I’m for Rebellion”). Once again,  thanks to Marina Antić for the […]

Declaration of Sarajevo Protestors #1

With regards to yesterday’s protests across Bosnia and Herzegovina and the media’s attempt to discredit this justified rebellion, this informal group of citizens and protest participants repeats our demands to […]

‘Twenty years they’ve been suffocating us’


Tuzla’s Declaration of Citizens and Workers (Tuzla #1)

DECLARATION 7 February 2014. Today in Tuzla a new future is being created! The [local] government has submitted its resignation, which means that the first demand of the protestors has […]