Protests Across Bosnia Are A “Collective Nervous Breakdown”


by Balkanist @, Feb. 8, 2014

“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. …

… 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”.

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