Friday, December 26, 2008

Journalist Peter Lippman--Travel Journal to Bosnia-Herzegovina Part VI

[Part Six of Peter Lippman's journal of his recent visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I am passing along all of these journal entries to my reader with his permission.--Kirk]

Bosnia-Herzegovina Journal # 6: Tuzla

Hello,

Before launching into this journal, here are a couple of notes:

--I want to thank my brother Roger for patiently, conscientiously, and faithfully proofreading all these journals. Any escaped errors are mine, not his.

--I encourage you to check out Roger's Web site about Kosovo, Bosnia, and related subjects: BalkanWitness, at Balkan Witness.

-- Balkan Witness presents first-hand reports, histories, commentaries, and links to other sources of information about events in Kosovo and Bosnia in their historical context. In addition to news, it provides a progressive interpretation of the last couple decades of events in the region. This is particularly important with regard to a subject where so many progressive commentators have failed in understanding the events and have gone so far in their knee-jerk opposition to US policies that they have ended up, in greater or lesser measure, adopting and repeating the justifications of the extreme Serb nationalists. BalkanWitness is an antidote to that. You can also see some of my writing from the last ten years at the inner page on this site; click on "Letters from Kosovo and Bosnia."

--[Here, Peter offers to accept any comments from readers; since these journals originated from a mailing list I was not 100% certain he would want me to publish his email address. If it turns out that he doesn't mind, I will restore this comment. Kirk]

yours, Peter

TAKE ME BACK TO TUZLA

On the first day of October I traveled to Tuzla. There, I met my friend Julia, who lives in a log cabin somewhere in the vast wilderness of Washington State. She is one of that rare breed of foreigners who are interested in everything about Bosnia and bother to go there.

Tuzla is in the Bosniak-dominated part of the Federation, and it has been governed by the Social-Democrat Party (SDP) since the first multi-party elections before the war. It always seems to be ahead of other parts of Bosnia. The town is less obsessed with who is guilty for what past (or future) crime and what ethnicity is superior to another. You can easily feel these attitudes in the atmosphere. Tuzla is different because it has never had a nationalist government. This is not to say that there is no discrimination, and that all non-Bosniaks are at ease, but I've heard from Tuzla Serbs and Croats many a time that they do not feel oppressed by a dominant ethno-nationalist majority.

Four or five years ago Tuzlans turned a swamp into a park, creating a salt-water lake there, and then they built an "archeological park" that showed the architecture of Tuzla's Neolithic inhabitants. Thousands of people flock to that park when the weather is warm. Since I was last there in 2006, new attractions have been created: a second lake, and a waterfall coming down the hill above the park. A salt-waterfall! I'd be surprised to learn that such a thing exists anywhere else on the planet. Tuzlans are clever.

The reason for all this saltiness is that under Tuzla sit great deposits of salt, both in crystal form and dissolved in water that is saltier than the Adriatic. So folks have been going there to get salt, probably since the Neolithic times. "Tuzla" is a form of the Turkish word for salt.

I walked up towards the park with Julia from the town's center and pointed out a street sign to her. It was "October 2nd" street, and that day was, in fact, the second of October (How often does that happen?). The street's name commemorates the date in 1943 that the Partisans liberated Tuzla and surroundings from the Nazi forces. For the time that this lasted, they say, Tuzla was the largest liberated territory in Europe. Tuzlans still celebrate their Partisan history.

Tuzla is improving. More business is being conducted, so there are somewhat more jobs. And they extended the pedestrian zone in the historic center of town by one block to the east of the statues of Ismet Mujezinovic and Mesa Selimovic.

But not everyone is happy. I went to the flea market to buy some used books, and the sellers in that stall were both displaced persons. If you are still displaced this long after the war, you are probably not ever going to go back home, and there are hundreds of thousands of people in this situation throughout Bosnia. Maybe their children or grandchildren will have a decent life, but for them, things are very difficult. They have to pay rent, where people who were not displaced often own their homes or apartments. And the displaced people have the fewest connections to get jobs in a depressed job market. My booksellers told me the story of their lives in a few short sentences. They are fighting to live, and you can see the sadness and loss in their faces.

Julia and I walked beyond the park with my friend Nermina. We passed by a diminutive wooden mosque, about the size of a one-room schoolhouse. Nermina, ever the cynic, pointed out the mosque to Julia and said, "That's the oldest mosque in Tuzla, and all the [sincerely] religious people in this city could fit in it." Nermina rebels against the ostentatious construction of gleaming Kuwait- and Saudi-financed mosques in Bosniak-controlled territories. They are a kind of political message.

Nermina continued, "I'm sick of 'Muslim,' and I'm sick of 'Catholic,' and sick of 'Orthodox,' I just want to be a human being. But the government only thinks of us as Muslims and so on."

There were long lines as the banks opened on Tuesday. The government had delayed payment of retirees' pensions. This is not a rare occurrence, but officials were at a loss to provide a good reason why it happened. That morning crowds of older people stood in front of the banks patiently, in a scene reminiscent of "that (pre-war) system."

ELECTIONS

The nationwide municipal elections were looming as I visited Tuzla. In front of the "commercial center," or shopping mall at Brcanska Malta, the SDP held an enthusiastic rally to promote the re-election of Mayor Jasmin Imamovic, who is popularly viewed as the brains behind Tuzla's relative economic progress. The SDP has had the city of Tuzla's elections sewn up since before the war, and no other political party can really compete with them there. People wore red t-shirts with "I love Tuzla" on the front, and the mayor's name on the back.

A loudly-amplified band played varieties of ethno-pop music, without prejudice to the folklore of one ethnic group over another. At one point they broke into an updated version of an old patriotic Yugoslav song, with the refrain, "Druze Tito mi ti se kunemo": "Comrade Tito, we swear to you..." Only in "Red Tuzla."

On election day I sat with Nermina and her friend Merima. Nermina was about to go off to vote, and Merima was not, there being "no one to vote for." I asked Nermina whom she was going to vote for. She said, "Tito." She was also going to vote for the candidates from Nasa Stranka (see journal #2), because a few generations back, one of her relatives was related to an ancestor of Danis Tanovic, the famous film director.

Another friend of mine, a literature professor, told me that he had gotten involved in politics and was running for a municipal council seat as a Nasa Stranka candidate. I asked him what he thought that Nasa Stranka could do in Tuzla that the SDP was not doing. He argued that Tuzla needs an opposition, since the nationalist parties are on a whole different plane of thought than the SDP -- that there needs to be another non-nationalist party to compete with the SDP. He criticized the SDP, saying the city government needs more transparency.

REVOLT

One rainy day I met with a few activists from the youth NGO "Revolt." They were holding umbrellas and putting up posters in the rain, and a policeman was harassing them. He recorded their names because he thought they were violating the "izborna sutnja," the quiet period immediately before the elections. On this day before the elections, all campaigning was prohibited. The young activists were pasting up a provocative poster with the heading, "Are You Idiots?" Below that was printed the Greek definition of "idiot:" someone who remains uninvolved from decision-making processes that affect him/her.

The activists weren't particularly worried about the police harassment, even though the policeman was carefully recording all their names and ID numbers. They said, "This is not a campaign poster."

I asked the activists what they were advocating that people vote for. One responded, "We want them to vote for the non-nationalist parties. The rest is up to the voter; we are not particularly for one party. It is ok here, but not in the Canton. There, people have less education." She added, "They are harassing us because we're young; we have no rights. We have the right to keep quiet. That cop doesn't even know the law.

We sat and talked, and the activists were generally positive about Tuzla. They said that the only time they talked about ethnicity among themselves was when they were kidding around. They don't feel that the nationalist parties have any chance in the city. But one person said that if the SDA (the leading Bosniak nationalist party) were to win, they would have to work "underground." They asserted that that the SDA had no chance there, but that if they were to win, they would create a "Dzamahurija," a state run by the Muslim religious establishment.

Revolt holds protests against violence and corruption. The group has organized demonstrations when it perceived that people from influential families committed crimes that went unpunished. They have painted over racist slogans.

Speaking of the atmosphere in Tuzla, one activist told me, "There is no discrimination, or only a negligible amount. There are isolated cases of Islamic fundamentalist action. There are attempts at Islamization. For example, last year there was a two-hour funeral here for a Wahabi leader. But what's that compared to 7,000 years of Tuzla's history of living together? Here, the Wahabi have no public activities. There is a lot of resistance against them, including in the religious community."

Unlike the mayor of Sarajevo, Tuzla's Jasmin Imamovic is well-regarded among the youth: "He comes to converse; he's approachable. He is a good speaker and he has good ideas. He developed Tuzla from being a sad city without cultural events or places to go."
(For Revolt's Web site see http://oprevolt.com/)


NASER ORIC ARRESTED

As I was sitting with my friends Nermina and Merima, we read the news that Naser Oric, once commander of the Bosnian army defending the Srebrenica protected zone, had just been arrested in Sarajevo. Together with eight other people, Oric was arrested for extortion and illegal possession of weapons. Most of the others were released immediately, but Oric, his ex-wife, and one other accomplice were kept in jail.

Oric was a strongman in the days of the enclave, when his charisma and boldness inspired the soldiers defending that territory. After the war he was indicted by the Hague war crimes tribunal and accused of the deaths of Serb civilians in the area surrounding Srebrenica. He was held in Scheveningen prison in Holland for three years. In 2006 he was convicted and sentenced to two years in jail, and thus released immediately. More recently, on appeal, that conviction was reversed. While Oric was imprisoned, graffiti appeared in Tuzla reading (in English), "Don't Forget, Naser is a Hero!"

I wondered why Oric would be arrested now. My friends weren't sure, but Merima commented, "every ethnicity has its own bandits that it protects." Every so often one of those bandits goes down. The question is always, "Why him, and why now?" In any case, to date, the real bandits, the big boys, always remain intact.

After Oric's arrival in Tuzla shortly before the fall of Srebrenica, he had become active as a local "businessman." His premature removal from Srebrenica a couple of months before its fall was never explained. But it appears rather clear that afterwards, Oric had some sort of understanding with top Bosniak politicians. He never deviated from the official story about why he was removed -- "for training" -- nor why he was never returned. In return, he received favors from the government, including gifts of real estate and preferential treatment in business investments. Rumors of Oric's involvement in gangsterism, including trafficking of women and drugs, have been quite common. When he was released from jail he moved to Sarajevo, where those rumors continued to circulate.

The next part of this journal will be laden with details about specific figures in the Bosnian underworld. The information may be a bit dense, but it is as relevant to understanding Bosnia as was the information I provided about corrupt figures in my first journal, because it introduces a second level of the criminal world that rules the country: the mafias. There is no real boundary between the mafia and the corrupt actors in the government, as you'll see, but each level has its power centers.

There have been two dominant, rival mafia groups in Sarajevo. One is run by the homegrown war hero and gangster Ramiz Delalovic "Celo," whose principal surviving member is Amir Pasic "Faco." The other group run by the Gasi family, Albanians from Kosovo. Another prominent member of this group is Naser Kelmendi, who appears to have taken Naser Oric under his wing.

Last year Celo was assassinated, and more recently Gasi and several of his colleagues were arrested for racketeering. Between those two events, Naser Oric moved from Tuzla to Sarajevo. His first registered address was that of a hotel owned by Gasi's close confederate Naser Kelmendi.

(Note: Ramiz Delalovic "Celo" should not be confused with Ismet Bajramovic "Celo," another leading gangster who was found dead, of an apparent suicide, on December 17th).

Upon his release from prison in 2006 Oric had returned to Tuzla, but he found that he had lost complete control of underworld operations there. That's when he decided to move to Sarajevo, and he began associating with members of the Gasi group. He never completely severed his ties with Tuzla and businesses in the surrounding region, however.

In an interesting side-note, Naser Oric found time to finish a university diploma. In Bosnia students take tests in a schedule that may be separate from attending classes. They aren't necessarily even required to attend classes; what's most important is that they pass the required tests. A test failed can be repeated at a later date. Perhaps, even more convenient, a passing grade can be bought.

Oric returned from Holland in the summer of 2006, and he began taking tests to earn a two-year degree at the Sarajevo University department of Sports and Physical Education three months later. Curiously, he had already been registered as a student at this department in 2005. In any case, he passed six tests in September of 2006. A writer for Dani magazine noted that he had gotten a mark of 7 (out of a possible 10) for a test on handball, and commented, "He should have taken tennis, because he is good with a racket. He could even lecture on the subject."

Students at the sports department don't recall having seen Oric attending classes. Today several professors and the dean of the department are under investigation for suspicion of corruption.

In any case, the newly-graduated Oric moved to Sarajevo, bought an apartment, and founded a "security agency" with its office in Kelmendi's Ilidza hotel, the "Casa Grande." He was seen driving around in a luxurious black Mercedes.

The extortion charges leveled against Oric and his friends were based on information offered by a woman named Dzehva, from whom Oric and his friends had obtained over 100,000 KM (about $70,000) since 2002.

Dzehva and her husband had rented a warehouse near Tuzla from Oric's group before he went to jail, and they wound up owing Oric 50,000 KM. While Oric was in Scheveningen, his wife and another accomplice intimidated Dzehva into paying her several thousand KM each month, under the threat that they would "liquidate" her family. With interest, the amount Dzehva gave up ended up more than doubling the original debt. When Dzehva ran out of money after Oric returned to Bosnia, he "confiscated" her Audi. Finally, desperate, Dzehva went to the police. It was then that prosecutors were able to file charges against Oric and his group.

Oric is suspected of having extorted money from other victims as well, but Dzehva's case is the only one for which they have concrete testimony. Oric's request to be released from jail was rejected on the grounds that he may intimidate witnesses or perpetrate other, similar crimes.

When Oric was arrested his properties were raided, from Sarajevo to Tuzla and beyond. Police found illegal weapons including pistols, hunting rifles with long-distance scopes, Uzis, and other semi-automatic weapons. They also confiscated five automobiles.

Meanwhile, it is apparent that the rivalry between the Gasi group and the deceased Ramiz Delalic Celo's organization continues, with occasional bombings and shootings breaking out between the two gangs. At least until the arrest of Gasi and a good number of his confederates in July, the Gasi group held the upper hand. They allegedly made several attempts to assassinate Celo's old accomplice, Amir Pasic "Faco."

On the night of September 18th, four men threw a bomb from a moving car at a kafana in the old section of Sarajevo. Faco and a couple of his friends were in the kafana. Unhurt, they ran out to try to identify the attacking car. The attackers escaped, but some of them were soon arrested. They were recognized as accomplices of Kelmendi, Oric, and Gasi.

Faco and his friends who were attacked had been arrested in recent times on suspicion of having performed various criminal tasks for Celo. These included torching a truck that was loaded with goods coming from Turkey; bombings in several Bosnian cantons; and the attempted murder of a businessman in Travnik. The suspects were always released for "lack of evidence." This problem seems to be the downfall of many a crime case in the courts of Bosnia. One of the suspects had even attempted to influence potential witnesses while he was still being held in jail.

After the bombing incident, Faco and his friends went to the police station to provide evidence about their attackers. While there, Faco recognized a detective who is a confederate of Kelmendi. It is not unusual for gangsters to have their people on the inside of as many police agencies and security branches as possible.

In a public statement, Faco asserted that the bomb attack was meant as a warning to him and other people who were planning to testify in court against the Gasi group. Referring to Oric, Faco said, "[The Sarajevo daily] Dnevni Avaz promotes Naser as a hero. He's not a hero. He abandoned his people in Srebrenica and came here to pretend he's a mafioso, and Kelmendi supports him in all his murky business. Kelmendi's sons beat old folks and women in the city. If he gets any stronger, he will start killing policemen, prosecutors, and judges too."

Maybe this is why the Gasi group and Oric were arrested.

Faco accused Kelmendi of having killed Celo and other rivals. He continued, "Celo has more support dead in the Old Town than Kelmendi, who wants to muscle into that territory. There is prejudice against the Albanians. But they have influence via Oric, Senad Saja Sahinpasic,* and Bakir Izetbegovic. Elvis Kelmendi [Naser's son] came from Kosovo, where there were murders. The Sarajlije who pass for a mafia here can't touch him, and they [the Gasi group] act like tough guys here. If the police don't do something, let it be known publicly that I'm going to start carrying around an automatic weapon and I'm going to defend myself and this city. How couldn't the people be afraid of them, when they move around the city armed with firearms or clubs, in groups of five to ten, and they are protected from all criminal prosecution by Gasi's and Kelmendi's money?"

(*Senad Saja Sahinpasic is an operator at the nexus between the underworld and "respectable" politics, about whom there will be more in a later journal.)

Oric was released towards the end of November after almost two months in jail, when the court decided that he was no longer a threat to witnesses or to the public. His lawyer said that, since the witnesses had all been questioned, there could be no more danger of their being threatened. Oric's ex-wife and the other accomplice were also released.

After he was released, Oric gave a statement saying that he was not friends with Naser Kelmendi.

A week after Oric's release, he was jailed again when the court reversed its evaluation that he was not a danger to the public.


THE "INDEX" SCANDAL

While I was visiting Tuzla, a new/old scandal was breaking that was largely centered on corruption in that city. The background: A couple of weeks earlier, authorities in Zagreb had arrested more than one hundred people in connection with corruption in the university. There, it was discovered that professors had been keeping unusual records regarding some of their students. The grade cards that record students' test history are called "indexes," and it was revealed as a result of a detailed investigation that some students were paying for a passing grade on their tests, rather than studying and actually passing them. Some professors were recording payments on the indexes.

Practices like this had long been rumored in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but no serious action had ever been undertaken. Now, inspired by what happened in Croatia, students in Bosnia opened a discussion on the Web portal www.svevijesti.ba ("sve vijesti" = "all the news."). Quickly, hundreds of students wrote in with complaints about the corrupt practices of many professors. The spread of these complaints was shockingly broad, reaching professors in most of the universities in both entities of Bosnia. A particularly high number of complaints, however, focused on professors at the Philosophy Department of Tuzla University, and the Tuzla extension of the University of Sarajevo's Law Department.

In addition to direct payment for a passing mark on tests, the registered complaints included a number of other forms of bribery: bribes to register at a university; compulsory purchase of textbooks published by a professor (most often directly purchased from the professor); compulsory make-up study with a professor's assistant, for a fee; purchase of exam questions in advance of a test through an intermediary; and purchase of diplomas. There has also been mention of students paying a professor's telephone bill, providing building materials for his vacation cottage and working on its construction, and even buying a pair of shoes for a professor. But most scandalous of all is the allegation that professors were having sex with female students in return for giving them a passing grade.

Allegations seemed to be substantiated when Tuzla police arrested and jailed a local man, Jasmin Masic, and found incriminating evidence in his car.

Masic was a driver for the Tuzla Canton government. When the Sarajevo Law Department extension was opened in Tuzla in 2002, he was assigned as driver for professors who traveled regularly to Tuzla. The canton's Ministry of Education paid for the professors to sleep overnight at the Jet Star Motel in nearby Zivinice, because classes were temporarily being held in that town.

In Masic's government-owned car, police found test records, or indexes, belonging to several law students. In his personal car and his apartment, they also found a large amount of money, as well as questions for upcoming tests to be held by visiting law professors Zdravko Lucic and Bajro Golic.

The news of these findings splashed across the newspaper headlines throughout late September and early October. A Tuzla newspaper announced that authorities were going to take DNA tests from a blanket taken from among Masic's possessions. The Tuzla Canton prosecutor's office announced that it was going to question Lucic and Golic, as well as two more Sarajevo Law Department professors, Sanjin Omanovic and Fuad Saltaga. Saltaga is Dean of the Sarajevo Law School. In a public statement, Lucic denied that he had had sex with students, saying, "I'm a married man and don't need to have sex with students. I know Masic but don't know what he's accused of. I'm completely innocent." Lucic admitted having stayed at the Jet Star Motel, but Bajro Golic said that he did not even know where that motel was located.

Suspects arrested for organizing prostitution, including taxi drivers, were known to deliver women to the Jet Star regularly. The owner of the motel himself acknowledged that between fifty and one hundred women had visited the premises, but he asserted that none of the professors ever slept with any of them.

Early in October the Tuzla branch of the Helsinki Citizens Parliament organized a forum about the scandal. The Tuzla University rector and deans were invited, but they did not attend. A friend of mine who is a professor of literature at that university came and told of the time when an older man showed up at his office with a "blue envelope" -- these are the proverbial containers of monetary bribes -- and offered it to my friend in return for a passing grade for his granddaughter. My friend, an honest sort, immediately called on a nearby secretary to witness what was going on.

More accusations came in via the Web portal. Three professors in the Philosophy Department at Tuzla University were accused: one of taking presents, another of selling books, and another of having produced a "suspicious doctoral dissertation." That professor teaches "social pathology," which covers corruption.

At Mostar University, students said that they know which kafana to visit to buy test questions, and who the bent professors are. They recalled protest demonstrations in 2004, when medical students were being charged 5,000 KM to pass a test. Authorities denied this accusation. There were many complaints of being forced to buy unnecessary textbooks and being forbidden to arrive at a test without a particular book. A wide spread in the cost of tests, from 500 KM to 4,000 KM, was reported.

In a survey around that time, 25% of questioned students responded that they had been asked for money to register at a university, and around half that number reported that they had been asked for money to take a test, or had witnessed professors taking bribes. In a more recent survey conducted by the Bosnian branch of the corruption watchdog Transparency International, only around one percent of students in Banja Luka, and three percent in Sarajevo, responded that corruption did not exist in the universities.

Concerned professors who addressed the scandal, noting that many professors teach in several cities, criticized the existence of the "traveling circus." There are instances where a professor will come to a city and give oral tests to as many as forty students in one day, which would seem to make it hard to determine how much an individual student had actually learned.

Students have complained that certain professors' tests were much more difficult to pass, and that those were the professors who were taking bribes. In this light it is much clearer to me what a young friend of mine, who some years ago was studying in Sarajevo, meant when he told me that his department "ran people through the wringer" ("peglati").

One honest professor commented that "during the war, people would come to receive a diploma with 'money and two witnesses.' Now, they were coming with more money, and no witnesses -- except a go-between." She advocated that Bosnian universities should adhere to EU standards, calling for written tests, compulsory class attendance, transparent competition for jobs in academia, and regular evaluation of classes. These conditions do not currently exist. The professor warned that all of Bosnia's social institutions are in danger of a "crash," because they are being run by people who do not have the required knowledge and training: "We need younger professors who can adapt to EU standards; the older ones don't follow current trends in their own fields, they don't know foreign languages, and they don't know how to use computers -- this is the old communist way of teaching."

Responding to accusations against himself and his colleagues at Sarajevo Law School, Dean Fuad Saltaga posted a letter saying that he "could not address" the charges, and countering that they were the product of a media campaign to shut down the Sarajevo Law Department's extension in Tuzla.

The investigation that led to Jasmin Masic's arrest was connected to an earlier ongoing investigation of organizers of a prostitution ring centered in Tuzla. That investigation led to the arrest of several pimps. Testimony given by prostitutes questioned in this investigation prompted suspicion of the four professors from Sarajevo when the women noted that "the best customers were law department professors." They also said that the pimps introduced prostitutes to Masic, who would then connect them with the professors.

The procedure by which female students received grades was reported as follows: the students would give their indexes to Masic, and after they slept with a professor, he would inscribe their passing mark and the go-between would return the index to the student. Similarly, the professors would sell test questions to the intermediaries, who would then sell them to students.

Besides students, it has been alleged that prostitutes from the Ukraine and Romania also consorted with the professors. Two of these women were deported from Bosnia last January; one of them was believed to be HIV positive.

Professor Bajro Golic had been accused of similar corrupt practices involving a female student from Zenica three years earlier, but the affair was hushed up. In that case, the student was having difficulty passing a test, and Golic returned it with his cell phone number written on it. When the student asked what this meant, Golic said, "You're young and good-looking, and I like young good-looking women, so we could meet and mix business with pleasure."

Professor Zdravko Lucic has a prior reputation as a scofflaw himself. He was implicated in an earlier, long-running scandal, together with highly positioned politicians and prominent businessmen, involving corruption, forgery, and tax evasion. In April of last year Lucic was arrested in the company of a gunman who had just murdered another gangster. (Lucic has been banned from entry to many kafanas in Sarajevo.) He has also been accused of acting as mediator in an attempt to bribe a judge on the constitutional court. All of these charges have been dropped "for lack of evidence."

Dean Fuad Saltaga, before the war, was a communist apparatchik and the author of a book about Josip Broz Tito. He lived in Pale, a village in the mountains above Sarajevo. After the war he became the owner of a four-room apartment and, without proper permits, built a five-floor house that is worth 2 million KM.

Bajro Golic has been called the "best businessman among the professors, and the worst professor among the businessmen." He built a three-story house in an elite Sarajevo neighborhood, owns a vacation cottage outside of Sarajevo, and he bought a new six-room apartment in Skenderija. He supports two sons who are studying in the US.

A university professors' pay can be as high as 4,000 KM (around $3,000) per month. In Bosnia, this is a very healthy income -- but not enough to support these expenses.

In mid-October another jailed organizer of prostitution, Senad Habibovic, tried to blackmail professor Sanjin Omanovic from jail. He sent Omanovic a letter and a photograph of the professor in a compromising situation. In response, Omanovic reported the blackmail attempt to the police. On investigation, the police searched Habibovic's possessions and discovered a DVD film that showed professors from Sarajevo Law School taking drugs. Further investigation was promised, and the prosecutor in the case, Dijana Milic, stated that she would offer immunity to any student willing to testify.

Above, I mentioned Naser Oric and his quick-study success at obtaining a college degree in Sports Management. It turns out that his Department of Sports and Physical Education is well known for dispensing degrees under "special circumstances." This department received one of the highest number of complaints in the portal at www.svevijesti.ba. Students alleged that all of the forms of bribery mentioned above were common in the sports department. They noted that one professor was known to charge 500 KM per test, and that the dean printed many more of his own textbooks than recommended and then compelled students to buy them. The OSCE criticized the lack of transparency around registration procedures at the department.

Students have said that it would be easier to number the few honest professors who don't take money for favorable test results than to name all of those who do.

In Bosnia there are serious obstacles to mounting an investigation and prosecution along the lines of what took place in Croatia in response to the swirling allegations of corruption at the universities. The greatest one is the fact that an overwhelming number of high officials acquired university degrees in the ways that I have described here. These officials include military intelligence officers serving in the Bosnian army, as well as various professors, politicians, and even some journalists.

Only the Bosnia-wide Agency for Intelligence Services (OSA) possesses the wiretapping technology capable of mounting an effective investigation, and its director received a university diploma in "very suspicious circumstances." Several Federation intelligence officers and other police officials obtained diplomas in agricultural studies at Sarajevo and Mostar Universities by buying them for 5,000 KM. Some police department officials in Mostar hold diplomas in "kindergarten pedagogy." (Some of this information comes from the September 25, 2008 issue of Slobodna Bosna, which lists the names of a couple dozen high officials who got diplomas without studying.)

In Tuzla Canton, prosecutor Dijana Milic appears to present another possible obstacle to prosecution. As mentioned above, she is offering immunity to witnesses. Her witnesses against Masic include the professors that he has implicated, and there is a strong fear that she will provide them--the big fish--with immunity for testifying against a few small fish. In a late October interview with a reporter from Dani, she stated that the professors were not yet the objects of an investigation, but she firmly refused to acknowledge how crooked this appeared.

Alisa Sarajkic, a former prostitute and drug-taker, is the only person who has agreed to speak publicly about her relationship with the professors. Alisa went to Germany from Tuzla with her husband after the war. When her marriage broke up around five years ago, she returned to Tuzla. She had two daughters and no way to pay rent. She was unhappy and desperate, and she soon began to take drugs.

Soon Alisa met Jasmin Masic in a kafana. He was employed, drove a good car, and was popular. The two of them went out together for a while, and then Masic introduced Alisa to Zdravko Lucic. Alisa started serving Lucic as an "escort" in return for money and fine clothing. She told a reporter for Dani of her time with Lucic and other professors. Lucic would take Alisa out to elegant restaurants, where he kept company with other professors who also had escorts. Some of them were Russian, Ukrainian, or Romanian. Alisa was dependent on cocaine. She told the reporter from Dani that she would take cocaine or ecstasy, and that sometimes the professors would take a little.

During her time with Lucic, Alisa received enough money to support her children and her drug habit. Sometimes she went out with Bajro Golic as well, to get more money. Lucic would send her money through an Albanian intermediary if he was out of town and she was in need. Alisa noted that Lucic was on the board of a bank, and he arranged credit for this intermediary in return for his services.

Alisa mentioned that she had contracted hepatitis at some point. Neither Lucic nor Golic was willing to use a condom. Later, Alisa started using heroin, and Lucic stopped seeing her. At this point Alisa began to engage in ordinary prostitution. Her customers were "well-reputed doctors, professors, and politicians." She recalled that the pimps were fighting each other for control of her, and one would "sell her" to another.

In the fall of this year Alisa was in jail for petty crimes, and prosecutor Dijana Milic visited her. Milic offered to have her released from jail if she would provide information. When the Dani reporter met her in October, Alisa was in hiding, under threat from pimps for testifying.

The indexes found in Masic's car included one with his own name on it. He had "completed" three years of law school. Alisa remembered when Lucic had invited Masic to register for the university. He asked her if she would like to do so as well. She said that she did not have a high school degree, but Lucic replied that he could arrange to take care of that. Alisa declined, but during the interview with Dani, she said that she regretted it.

At present, a few pimps are in jail, the headlines about the scandal have subsided, and the professors are all still teaching.

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Next -- Journal #7: Kozluk and Bijeljina

4 comments:

Owen said...

Absolutely fascinating. As far as the more cheerful first part of this section of Peter's journal is concerned, Kirk you and anyone else who wants to see more of the Tuzla salt lake, the archaeological village and loads more highlights of Tuzla (including photos of the election campaign) should visit Jazzy's TuzlaDailyPhoto Blog at http://tuzladailyphoto.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

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info blogged about, this dispells, puts to rest
most of what I've read.

Anonymous said...

Danke!

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