This Wednesday, after almost 20 years spent in misery and conflict, the working masses of Bosnia-Herzegovina have risen up to fight for their rights. This outburst of popular resistance was long-simmering because of the incredibly high rates of unemployment, high rates of poverty, and an unresponsive, unrepresentative bourgeois government.
Workers have so far had to face whole years without a salary or health insurance, long periods of time in conditions of unemployment or under-employment, 15 years with 25€ a month. On the frontlines, workers of local enterprises that used to employ thousands of workers. In the canton of Tuzla 100,000 are jobless while only 80,000 have a job. There are around 550,000 unemployed people in the country as a whole. The protests started in Tuzla and spread in other cities across Bosnia-Herzegovina, where workers took to the streets to combat the closure of factories privatized by the state and on the verge of financial collapse. In the canton of Tuzla, more than one in four workers are jobless. At 27.5%, the country’s unemployment rate is the highest in the Balkans. Government buildings in the cantonal governments of Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica have been set on fire, and several other cities are seeing protests, among which Bihać, Travnik and Zavidovici. This is the culmination (at least so far) of protests started three days ago.
In Sarajevo protesters clashed with the police and stormed the government building, and the police counterattacked with rubber bullets and tear gas to try and disperse the crowd. The presidential palace has been set on fire, as many protesters were holding up red cards and shouting the word “revolution”. Sarajevo’s streets are now covered in broken glass and debris. Around 145 people were inujured, 93 of them policemen. In Mostar, several thousand protesters stormed two local government buildings and set fire to the local city hall, and no police could intervene to stop them. In Tuzla, protests over factory closures turned violent, as workers clashed with police and torched local government buildings. In Zenica, the government building in the central town was set alight, and around 55 people were injured, among which 23 police officers. The chiefs of the Zenica and Tuzla cantonal governments have resigned in the face of protsts.
Unlike Ukraine’s recent protests, Bosnia’s protesters have pushed a clear anti-nationalist political line. In Banja Luka (Bosnia’s Serb’s capital) peaceful marches have been staged calling for unity among Bosnia ethnicities against the government. Despite the relevance of the protests, there’s very little media coverage accompanying them.
The Anti-Imperialism.com team will report on the events as they unfold.
According to Advance.hr, protesters have put together an unofficial list of requirements:
1. We demand a pay cut to all government functions and a maximum income of 2500KM (Bosnia and Herzegovina marks) (in this figure is included and meal).
2. We demand the legal prevention of participation in commissions for all politicians and all employees in the public sector.
3. We demand the abolition of the possibility of using official vehicles and the purchase of new vehicles for the fleet at all levels.
4. We demand the abolition of cantons.
5. We demand a fast and adequate reform of the education system and the introduction of effective practice in secondary schools and colleges.
6. We demand the abolition of political immunity.
7. We demand transparent operation of all levels of government.
8. We demand criminal responsibility and adequate penalties for all levels of government in the event of negligent performance of duty.
9. We demand a law on the heritage of property.
10. We demand the independence of courts at the state level and at all other levels.
11. We demand an enormous strengthening of penalties for theft offenses, murder, attempted murder, rape, serious bodily harm, abuse of office.
12. We demand that fake advertise vacancies for public sector jobs are abolished. (Dubious translation from: 12. Zahtijevamo ukidanje “internih raspisivanja konkursa za radna mjesta” u javnim sektorima.)
13. We demand a professional and educated police force which corresponds to European standards.
14. We demand an adequate civil service for the supervision of the police.
15. We demand an adequate civil service for the supervision of the courts.
16. We demand the independence of the broadcasting service and their control, and punishment of their irregularities.
17. We demand free legal services for citizens in each municipality in order to allow citizens to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed rights.
18. We demand a political system that will in the best pssible way to represent all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of their national, ethnic or religious affiliation.
19. We demand free service to the municipalities and the abolition of municipal and central government taxes the exercise of the rights of citizens.
20. We demand that all these points are placed on the agenda at all levels heard on an expedited procedure to be adopted in the next three months.
21. We demand the abolition of “national pension ” and the reduction of pensions for all political officials and public sector workers to the level of the average pension of normal workers/pensioners.
22. We demand the abolition of the payment of wages after the officiating of any position at all levels of government.
23. We demand policy based on economic progress.
24. We demand means through which citizens will be able to directly participate in decision-making.
25. We demand adequate legal sanctioning of nationalism and nationalist rhetoric and incitement of religious or ethnic hatred.
The Anti-Imperialism.com team will report on the situation as new information will become available.