All posts Protests

Universalize The Struggle

This article was originally published on the website Balkan Stories.

I know some people will certainly misunderstand the text below, but as someone who campaigned on the issue, who received numerous anonymous threats while working at the University in Sarajevo for „spreading gayness and being an atheist“, I am offering an analyses and my opinion as I think we need a left perspective:

1. We are facing the same challenges previously faced by fellow activists, leftists and those against the current state of affairs in Croatia and Serbia: i.e. Pride depending on the strong support of foreign embassies and the State, with the opposition to it from both the extreme right, the ruling (right) parties and governments and most of the population. Over and again we are witnessing an obvious inversion and trading of „human“ rights for social and political rights, I think it is my duty to talk about this as someone thinking, writing and doing things on the Left.

2. Three bigger parties support the Sarajevo #Imaizać Pride, the (neo)liberal Naša Stranka, Social Democratic Party (also neoliberal), the right centre SBB (Union for better future, equally neoliberal). Imaizać has its problems, being directly sponsored by the US and UK embassies in Sarajevo, and falling in line with the externally prescribed path of European integration, IFI-imposed austerity and privatisation, and the promotion of human rights at the expense of workers rights. These are the authoritative solutions presented by the Powers that formed the country as an international protectorate in Dayton. BiH remains riven by ethnic tensions, all organisations from trade unions to WWII Antifascist associations are divided on ethnic lines, and these divisions are stoked by foreign imperialist powers and local nationalist elites. Internal paralysis has left the country without a government for almost a year (nothing new after elections, post elections etc etc), but it is business as usual as hot Arab money flows into the capital to grease real estate bubbles and further degrade the environment. But a government is necessary if only to pass various counter-reforms and capitulate to external pressures to enter NATO as the conditio sine qua non of entering the EU (as with all the countries of former Eastern Bloc). This, lest we forget, is the context of this Pride as well.

3. However, I support it. Not because of what emerged as the (no wonder ei) hegemonic discourse during these last few months, i.e. those aforementioned human rights. Over and again I see how the imperialist powers use the human rights “discourse“ in order to oster reforms of other kind: economic, political and impose their military goals.

I support it because I am fervently against all religious dogmas and the form of appearance they take in ethno-nationalist politics.

4. One of the main and predominantly, if not exclusively muslim membership parties, SDA (the party of Alija Izetbegović) is obviously against it, and the other, its satellite Narod i pravda, currently in power in Sarajevo Canton, led by a politician who, as he claims comes from a traditional family (which did not prevent him from marrying three times already and forcing his first wife to convert to islam, as he had previously been a member of SDA, where only full Islam gets you high into the party establishment). The official minister of the police in the Canton Sarajevo and the resident of the Sarajevo Canton Assembly as the representatives of islamic neo-traditionalism are against it. Nothing to be added. So, they authorised a „pride“ of straight families led by some right-wing civil association claiming to represent „traditional“ values just a day before Pride. All this hypocrisy despite the fact that muslims, like members of two other nations in Bosnia do do drugs, do smoke weed, do drink alcohol, do have a mafia, are involved in trafficking, you name it – so the very idea of anything being remotely traditional makes one laugh. Except obviously the attempts at „re-traditionalising“ and introducing traditions that were part of some customs 200 years ago or more – in mores, language and education. Consequently, all of these have severe social and political ramifications.

5. !! But most of all I despise liberals who won’t talk about any of this, but will always be there to remind us that toothless, stupid, illiterate, uneducated folks are against the Pride, not because of religion, ideology and political economic issues, but because they are not educated enough. If only we were cultured, educated and civilised we would have prosperous, free and liberal state and market. Those same liberals who reduce it all to the „human rights discourse“ proudly tell us who in the wide world was gay (as if that meant anything) and that being gay is ok, because, well, „Western, civilised“ world we have to catch up with. Nope, it is not about that.

6. I support Pride precisely because I am against imperialist divisions of my country, because I am against protectorate, precisely because I am against the state based on religious, ethnic, nationalist divisions supported by the EU, US and you name it.

Finally, I support #Imaizać not because I think that my LGBTI friends are somehow different or some minority and that because of this they deserve rights, but because we are all same and hence demand same political and social rights. Without universalising our struggle, Imaizać would be defeated before even taking place. I hope we will grow and understand this through our mutual struggles!

By Tijana Okic

Tijana Okic teaches philosophy at the University of Sarajevo and was a member of the working groups of the Sarajevo Plenum.