Monday, September 29, 2008

Pangea and IFC Present: Women Entrepreneurs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Thursday Oct. 2 in Washinton, DC

This was forwarded to me by a friend; I confess I don't know much about the event except that it is this Thursday at the Pangea Artisan Market & Cafe, at 2121 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20433.

I have not yet been to the Washington, DC Pangea store, which opened in May at a ceremony attended by Paul Wolfowitz, among others; the store itself is located in the IFC Building. This is somewhat last-minute notice, so if you are reader of this blog and are anywhere near the Washington, DC area, please tell anyone you know who might be interested in Bosnia, female entrepreneurship outside the Western world, or traditional handcrafts, to consider checking this event out.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Negative Role of Religion in the Balkans, continued.

Considering the fact that hatred of gays seems to be the only thing the leadership of Bosnia's main three religions can agree on, a violent incident involving spiteful, violent and stupid young men chanting religious slogans was almost inevitable at Sarajevo's first Gay Festival. And sure enough, some 70-odd Wahabbi thugs made sure that God's word would not be ignored:

Violence Mars Start of Bosnia Gay Festival

The fact that these were Wahabbi Muslims will, of course, provide plenty of ammunition for the revisionists and flat-out bigots eager to seize on any post de facto "proof" that Serbia was fighting against Islamic terrorism in the Balkans. While this troubles me and I will of course counter any such charges I come across, for the moment this inevitability is not my main concern.

I cannot help but point fingers at the "moderate" religious leaders of all three main religious organizations in Bosnia, who joined together in bigotry and intolerance, creating an atmosphere in which this outburst of medieval religious hysteria was almost inevitable. Hateful, homophobic, bigoted religious fundamentalists should be the ones who are fearful of being outed.

The Wahabbi thugs of course bear primary responsibility, but the rest of Bosnia's religious community is by no means off the hook.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Update on Srebrenica Memorial Quilt

[I received this update on the progress of the Srebrenica Memorial Quilt collaboration between The Advocacy Project and BOSFAM. I am pleased to note that the quilt has continued to gain sponsors, and has grown in size, since I saw it at the Bosnian embassy in Washington, DC recently.]

The Srebrenica Memorial Quilt – an Update

September 2008: The Bosnian Family (Bosfam) and the Advocacy Project (AP) wish to thank you for your support of the Srebrenica Memorial Quilt project. Interest in the Quilt has grown steadily in Bosnia and North America since the quilt was first launched in St Louis on July 11, 2007. It is with great pleasure that we send you this brief report on what has been achieved, with your help.

The Bosnian weavers. Fourteen weavers are now working on the Srebrenica Memorial Quilt at the Bosfam headquarters in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina. All of them endured incredible hardships during the war in Bosnia, and over half were forced to leave Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. Several lost close relatives in the massacre. You can read about them on newly-updated web pages.

The quilt panels. Eighty-five panels have been produced, and each commemorates a single victim of the massacre. Together, the panels make up four separate quilts. Three quilts are currently used for outreach in the United States and Canada. The fourth quilt remains at the Bosfam office in Tuzla. A fifth quilt will soon be completed. Each panel has its own unique design, decided by a Bosfam weaver. The quilts may be viewed online.

Sponsors and funds. Over seventy individuals, clubs, and diaspora groups have sponsored panels and donated to the project. Sponsors have given $950 for panels commemorating a relative or friend. Donors have given another $1,800 in un-earmarked contributions. This has covered the cost of raw materials, and allowed the Bosfam weavers to continue making panels.

Outreach: The Quilt project seeks to keep the memory of the Srebrenica massacre alive and give diaspora communities a tangible way to support civil society and reconstruction in Bosnia. This is succeeding beyond our expectations. The Quilt has been displayed twelve times since July 2007. Hundreds of people have viewed the Quilt and engaged in a lively discussion about Srebrenica, in St. Louis, Boston, Detroit, Washington DC, New York, Toronto, and Utica. These events have also been covered in the local press. Several more events are planned for the fall and Bosfam and the Advocacy Project hope you will be able to join us. For more information on past and upcoming events visit the Outreach page.

Training: The Advocacy Project and Bosfam have exciting plans for this project. Bosfam is developing a training program for weavers which will benefit minority (Bosniak) returnees to Srebrenica and the surrounding villages. This program will provide women with skills and an income and promote refugee returns to one of the most economically-depressed areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A team from AP visited Srebrenica this summer to develop the program with Bosfam. Read the blogs of Iain Guest, Executive Director of the Advocacy Project visit to Bosnia.

Social change and impunity: The Srebrenica Memorial Quilt is proving to be an effective tool for advocacy in the United States and Canada, and Bosfam and AP hope to expand outreach efforts to Europe, including the Balkans itself, in 2009. The quilt serves as a reminder of the massacre and keeps the memory of the victims alive. Over 40,000 individuals attended the memorial services at Potocari this summer. In addition, one of the two architects of the massacre, Radovan Karadzic, was arrested on July 21, 2008. Of course, much remains to be done. But the quilt is playing an important role in seeking justice for the thousands of innocent victims who died in July 1995.

The Advocacy Project and Bosfam are extremely grateful for your support of this important project. Thank you!


Beba Hadzic (Bosfam) and Iain Guest (AP)

Tuzla and Washington DC. September 16, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Negative Role of Religion in the Balkans, continued

This story is depressingly predictable, given the track record of religious institutions in the region:

Croat Nurseries 'Should Teach Catholicism'

While I understand that the tradition of official state religions is well-entrenched in Europe and not peculiar to the Balkans, this intrusion of the Church into tax-supported state institutions ought to be opposed by any defender of secular democratic values. Given the role played by religious institutions in promoting and enabling national conflict in the region, this is especially true in this region.

Most troubling is this quote:

"Brankica Blazevic from the National Catholicism Office told Novi list that, in case there are non-Catholic children in a certain kindergarten group, “they should be moved to another group”."

This promotion of religiously-based segregation (especially troubling when one reflects that religious and national identity are tightly interwoven in the Balkans) should be vigorously resisted. Croatia has shown some troubling tendencies towards embracing, rather than rejecting, it's ultra-nationalist recent past; and we all know how events in Croatia and Serbia influence events and society in Bosnia.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"In the Name of the Son" screening

Courtesy of the Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, there will be two opportunities for Washington, DC area residents to see the highly acclaimed short film In the Name of the Son by Bosnian-American filmaker Harun Mehmedinovic.

Thursday, Sept. 18 at 6:45 PM, there will be a screening at Georgetown University, on the 7th floor of the ICC on 37th & O St. NW, Washington, DC 20057.

Friday, Sept. 19 from 2:00-4:00 PM, there will be a screening with Harun Mehmedinovic as guest at room 1116 of the Longworth Building on Capital Hill.

The film has already won a great deal of acclaim and I hope that these screenings are well-attended. I will not be at the Friday event, due to a family conflict, but will make every effort to be at the Georgetown viewing Thursday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Let the Dutch Government Know How You Feel

Any readers of this blog should already know the depressing news--that a Dutch civil court sided with the Dutch state and dismissed the case against the Netherlands for their failure to prevent Srebrenica genocide in 1995 (see this article from Srebrenica Genocide Blog).

I urge any and all readers of this blog to contact the Dutch embassy in your country to express your dismay at this terrible, cowardly decision. For my readers in the United States and Canada, here is the link for Dutch embassys and consulates in both countries.

Websites for embassys are part of a state's presence in a foreign country--what a state chooses to include, highlight--and yes, exclude--in its embassy website reflects very careful and deliberate decisions in terms of public relations and diplomacy. In case you're wondering if the Dutch acknowledged this issue in their "virtual embassy"; well, the answer is no. However, the issue of human rights was not completely absent from the day's headlines: The very day the court handed down its decision, the embassy's website proudly announced that the Dutch Foreign Minister had just (the day before--September 9) created a new award for "Human Rights Defenders". No, I'm not making that up.

The award--a small statue of a tulip, with a cash prize as well--will be awarded annually to "an individual who has shown exceptional moral courage in protecting and promoting the rights of his or her fellow citizens." Perhaps the soldiers of Dutchbat should be nominated, since they pulled out all stops in their single-minded determination to preserve the lives of their fellow Dutch soldiers, most notably by meeting every demand, explicit and implicit, Mladic's troops made of them.

The first "Human Rights Tulip" will be presented later this year:

"‘The award will honour people who fight a difficult battle, often at great personal risk, and will lift them out of anonymity,’ said Mr Verhagen. The Human Rights Defenders Tulip has been created to highlight the prominence of human rights in Dutch foreign policy. It will be presented for the first time on 10 December this year, at a ceremony in the Ridderzaal (‘Knights’ Hall’) in The Hague."

I have no doubt that it will be a very touching ceremony. I doubt it will receive much coverage in Bosnia, however.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Srebrenica civil court case judgment, Wednesday 10 September

I am passing along both of these Press Releases regarding the court case against the Dutch state being brought by survivors of Srebrenica. I have simply copied the text of both into this post; if anyone needs the original Word files, please email me--I will be happy to forward them to you. Thanks to Owen Beith for sending them.



The Hague / Göttingen, 10 September 2008

Decision due on 10.9.2008 at The Hague in first civil court action brought by Srebrenica survivors against Dutch state

Why were Ibro, Nasiha and Muhamed Nuhanovic and Rizo Mustafic sent to their deaths when the United Nations had promised to ensure their safety?

Today the Netherlands District Court in The Hague will deliver its verdict on whether the Dutch state and its contingent of United Nations peace-keeping troops can be held responsible for handing over Bosnian refugees who had looked to them for protection to be murdered by Serb soldiers in July 1995.

"We hope that the Dutch government, along with the international community, will finally accept responsibility for the deaths of 8376 men and boys from the town and for their surviving relatives", declared GfbV/STP General Secretary Tilman Zülch, speaking in Göttingen, Germany, today. "The eyes and thoughts of all the survivors of the massacre who hold the Dutch UN troops and the Dutch government responsible for the the death of their defenceless relatives are focused on The Hague. The judges must not disappoint them."

In July 1995 Bosnians who had sought refuge In the UN forces' base at Potocari were ordered by Dutch UN peacekeepers to leave the safety of the base and sent to face the prospect of certain death with Bosnian refugees already being killed and raped by Serb soldiers only a few metres outside the area under UN protection . The UN forces even denied protection to Bosnians who were known personally to them and to the family of their interpreter.

Six years ago the family of electrician Rizo Mustafic, who was murdered at Srebrenica, and Hasan Nuhanovic, whose parents and brother were also among those killed, began their civil action in the District Court at The Hague. They sought to hold the Dutch state accountable for the failings of the Dutch UN battalion. What the court has to determine is whether the Dutch government and the Dutch command within UNPROFOR should be held accountable for the shameful conduct of Dutch forces who were more concerned for their own safety than they were for the protection of the civilians in their care.

Hasan Nuhanovic lost his parents and his younger brother. His father's remains have been found in a mass grave and identified but the fate of his mother and brother remains unknown. Many mass graves were subsequently dug up by Serb troops using bulldozers to conceal the evidence. The remains were reburied elsewhere.

Alma Mustafic, daughter of the murdered Rizo Mustafic, has written to GfbV that, "Deep in my heart I am hoping that the court will deliver a just verdict and that these crimes will not be trivialised or denied."

Background: the tragedy of the Nuhanovic family:
Hasan Nuhanovic spent the night of 12-13 July 1995 with his parents and brother in a makeshift office on the UNPROFOR base at Potocari, on the outskirts of Srebrenica, working to the orders of the Dutch officer Andre de Haan. De Haan, who was staying in the same room with them and a doctor and nurse, had in the past been a welcome guest of the family and had enjoyed Mrs Nuhanovic's cooking . Nevertheless he did nothing to help her as she came close to breaking down on hearing that nine men had been killed in the area in front of the UNPROFOR base . The following morning, between 5 and 6 a.m., de Haan said, "Hasan, tell your mother, your brother and your father they must leave the base.“

Nuhanovic has painstakingly researched the story of the terrible events at Srebrenica which he documented in meticulous detail in his 550-page book, "Under the UN Flag", before taking his case to court.

Jasna Causevic, GfbV/STP's Southern Europe desk officer, can be contacted in The Hague by telephone on 0179 524 35 38.



Amsterdam, 8 September 2008:
Judgment in two civil actions due to be given at 10 a.m. on 10 September 2008 in the District Court at The Hague (Prins Clauslaan 60, The Hague, Netherlands).

On 10 September 2008 the District Court at The Hague will give its decision in the first civil actions brought against the Dutch State by relatives of the victims of genocide at Srebrenica. Hasan Nuhanovic and the family of Rizo Mustafic are seeking to establish that the Dutch state is responsible for the failure of Dutch troops acting under a United Nations mandate to protect their family members who were massacred at Srebrenica in July 1995.

Hasan Nuhanovic, a U.N. interpreter who lost his father, mother and younger brother, and the family of Rizo Mustafic, an electrician employed by the Dutch battalion of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), claim that the Dutch government failed to protect the lives of their relatives after the safe area established by U.N. Security Council Resolution around the town of Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia was allowed to fall into the hands of the Bosnian Serb Army.

The Nuhanovic and Mustafic families were among thousands of refugees who sought protection inside the compound of the U.N. base at Potocari but were handed over by the Dutch UNPROFOR forces to Serb General Ratko Mladic. Dutch soldiers in U.N. blue helmets are alleged to have watched on as women and young girls were taken away and raped and men and boys separated before being taken away for summary execution.

In a tort action against the Dutch state in which much of the legal debate has revolved around the division of responsibility between the United Nations and national states, the plaintiffs' lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld has argued that the Dutch government and the Dutch command within UNPROFOR were responsible for the gross negligence shown by Dutch troops, they were primarily concerned for the safety of their national contingent and they showed scant regard for the safety of the civilian population entrusted to their care.

The families have been concerned above all to establish the truth about why Ibro, Nasiha and Muhamed Nuhanovic and Rizo Mustafic were sent to their deaths in brutal circumstances when the United Nations had promised to ensure their safety.

The final hearing before the District Court on 16 June 2008 took place before the arrest of Radovan Karadzic, President of the Bosnian Serb Republika Srpska. Since the hearing Karadzic has been charged with responsibility for the genocide at Srebrenica and is currently in The Hague awaiting trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Contact person:
Prof. Dr Liesbeth Zegveld, Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden (BFKW) , Attorneys, Keizersgracht 560-562, Amsterdam 1017 EM, Tel.: +31 20 - 344 62 00, Fax: +31 20 - 344 62 01, e-mail:

Prof. Dr. Liesbeth Zegveld studied law at Utrecht. She obtained her doctorate with distinction in 2000 and was sworn in as an attorney in Amsterdam the same year. In 2005 she became a partner at Böhler Franken Koppe Wijngaarden, where she is a member of the international law & human rights department. She has written many articles on issues in the field of international humanitarian law. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the International Law Association's Committee for Compensation for War Victims. In September 2006 she was appointed professor of International Humanitarian Law, in particular the Rights of Women and Children, at Leiden University.

The Negative Role of Religion in Bosnia Herzegovina

A few days ago, while reading one of many stories about religious objections to Sarajevo's first gay rights festival, I considered that perhaps the problem of religion in Bosnian society has been underexamined. So I was hardly surprised by this article: Outgoing Head of OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina Douglas Davidson: "Your Religious Leaders are also Political Leaders"

in which Mr. Davidson explains that "It is unusual that I have had more difficulty dealing with your religious leaders then I had dealing with political leaders." Perhaps one of the main factors making national identity such a tricky and potentially catastrophic issue in the Balkans is precisely because, as he notes, that ethnic/national identity and religious identity are so interconnected there.

Because religious belief is based on allegedly "received wisdom" and 'faith' is widely held to be immune from rational standards of proof and is all but exempt from criticism. This is a very shaky foundation for national identity, particularly in an of religious diversity.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Michael Totten--a must-read site

Quite some time ago, Anthony at The Catholic Libertarian (as I've noted earlier, Anthony is a decent and thoughtful person and I enjoy reading his blog, even though we disagree on pretty much everything) brought Michael J. Totten's website to my attention. While I believe I acknowledged this site, I failed to add it to my sidebar of links. Until now, that is; please check out Mr. Totten's online reporting (putting his site in the "Blogroll" may be a mistake; don't be surprised if I move it since it may better be considered a news source).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Russian Aggression in Georgia Shows True Colors

It appears that the Kremlin feels secure enough to drop the pretense of "peacekeeping" in Georgia:

Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'

This is naked imperialism, by an authoritarian, nationalist state against an imperfectly democratic, smaller state. The contrast between Russia's actions in the Caucasus versus the West in the former Yugoslavia could not be more stark--it will be very interesting to monitor how the Parentis and Johnstones of the world try to spin recent events; chances are, their attempts will be just as clumsy as the efforts of Serb nationalists to convince themselves that Russia's support over Kosovo was principled and sincere.

If there was any doubt that the Yugoslav wars would have implications outside the immediate region, this should erase them. The West waffled in Bosnia, and the forces of reaction, nationalism, and authoritarianism took note. This situation warrants further attention.