I recently returned from a week-long visit to Sarajevo. Flying into Sarajevo airport and watching the awe-inspiring mountain ranges and green hills, I could not shake off the memories of my escape over them during the war. As the plane circled the valley I recognized Mount Igman and the winding road that my mother, baby brother and I took in a rattling, old Yugo taxicab during a brief lifting of the 3 year siege in the spring of 1995.
Recalling my escape, I re-lived the same soul-emptying sadness that I felt as I glanced, for the last time, at the city I loved so much. These thoughts and the anticipation of reuniting with my family, my city and the cultural heritage I left behind made me quickly emotional. I knew that the trip, like previous ones, would carry a myriad of emotions, too confusing and painful to sort- out in a short time. At the bag-check I took a deep breath, squared my shoulders, and not unlike a soldier entering the battle field, I exited the gate only to find myself enveloped by my mom and my sixteen year old brother. I was home.
As we drove to my mom’s home I was horrified to see a crumbling city. The initial feeling of disbelief and shock, over the next seven days, turned into anger over the Bosnian government’s widespread neglect and denial of basic human and civil rights. While I knew that Bosnia had suffered in a state of controlled chaos, it hurt to see firsthand how the Bosnian population became hostages to a corporate-controlled government and to mafia and corporate raiders who maintain the status quo through terror and violence.
What happens in a corrupt corporate-controlled governmental system? Rampant corruption creates an absolute void of any kind of accountability. Laws cease to be enforceable, since anyone with money can buy the system. Instead, they protect those who corrupt the system. The constant grab for money and resources by those in power has left the entire population unprotected and seen more as a liability rather than an asset.
In a recent scandal a woman confronted a slave owner named Kucevic over the death of her niece in one of the slave-brothels he runs. An hour before his trial, in front of police and TV cameras, Kucevic assaulted the woman in front of the court house. Police watched impassive as a female journalist was slammed against a fence by one of the slave trader’s body guards.
Minorities are treated as an invisible nuisance. A vast majority of ethnic minorities are pushed to the margins of society. But for the few token ethnic minorities, the work force is strictly comprised of one ethnic majority. The contempt for the plight of qualified workers who are outside that majority is further fueled by the public statements of governmental officials who state that to those belonging to one ethnic minority should not be allowed “to even keep a news-stand.”
Children are attacked in a broad-daylight and robbed at knife point. Several months ago my brother was robbed of a cell phone, an I-pod and a jacket. Youth delinquency is on a rise in the absence of a viable correctional system and the capacity to house delinquents and criminals. Children are abandoned by the State’s disinterest in addressing issues of personal safety and economical viability.
It is impossible not to feel for the honest hard-working people crushed and demoralized under a corporately-subverted system far more impressive than any so-called Socialist government. But with the help of foreign and domestic NGO’s fed up Bosnians have begun fighting for social justice. The goal is to shake the youth out of their current political and social apathy and encourage grassroots movements for change. For older Bosnians born in the ‘50s and ‘60s, there is a newly emerging public outcry for the Socialist period under Tito, when security and accountability at least appeared to be present- even in an unabashedly non-transparent government. This Yugo-nostalgia is yet another way of a subversive protest against the unchecked corporate-run government, and it is usurping generational, class and ethnic divisions. Perhaps there is some hope after all.