Monday, September 1, 2008


Semiha Kačar
Sandzak Committee for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms Novi Pazar


For a more complete understanding of the status of human rights and freedoms in the mentioned period of time one should look back, having in mind a broader context, at what had ahppened in this area previously, and what was going on in the last decade is not a particular news for Sandzak and the police violence, terror and pesecutions. All that has been happening in Sandzak since dismemberment of Yugoslav state community in 1991. was not accidental. It was, as the facts prove, a logical link of evil and violence being already experienced by the previous generations in 1912. That`s why history makes pressure and frightens.

After the first Balkans War in 1912. Sandzak was divided between Serbia and Montenegro. Since then traumatical pages of its history has never given too much hope and optimism for Muslim population, its long term security and perspective. Sandzak, marginalized, roadless has been for a long time a synonim for legging behind and conservativeness. It had been forgotten and dead enough even before the separation of Yugoslavia in 1991. The time of great nationalists Kosta Pecanac, Draza Mihailovic, Montenegrin chetnic duke Pavle Djurisic, Aleksandar Rankovic during the whole 20th century, as well as the one from the near past of so called „antibirocratic revolution“ and the regime of Slobodan Milosevic left deep scars and traumas in Sandzak. Today when we are talking about innocent condemned and killed people at the end and after the second World War nobody has mentioned Novi Pazar Hadzet as a mass graveyard from 1944. -1945. with the garves of condemned and killed people with no monuments.

All of that resulted in further spreading of fear and mass emigration of people to Turkey. Bosniaks in Sandzak today, without any exeggeration, are the rest of a displaced nation. Displaced Sandzak is more numerous than the real one. There are more Bosniaks in Turkey and Bosnia than here where they are being boen. They are decimated nation. Emigrations have taken away their force, the elite part of the nation. Those who stayed, in order to survive, created their own, unusual world, where the terms catman mentality and „people for all times“ were not unknown.

The newest register of population in Serbia and Montenegro showed there were less of us than in the last register being performed 15 years ago. Multiethnic composition of population of this region, besides the rest, hadn`t been during the whole time of existing of former Yugoslavia a recommendation for a more dynamic development and bigger investements. Migrations are a big misfortune that didn`t avoid any generation of Bosniaks in the 20th century. Bosniaks in Sandzak are only the rest of a migrated nation. That`s why it is hard to talk about Sandzak without emotions. There is a big dilemma were those who left or those who stayed right. Today in Bosnia and Turkey there are more people originating from Sandzak than in the very Sandzak, where they are hoping that, after all they had experienced, they will find a peace and safety, that evil upon them won`t repeat over and over in the very short intervals. Brutal Balkans „practice“ from 19th century – the time of foundation of national countries became only by the end of the 20th century „crime against human“

Sandzak certainly takes a special place in the history of separation of Yugoslavia, having in mind near past, as well as everything that had been happening in this neuralgic space 1991. – 1995., and after that, although those events (human rights violations, murders, roberries, mass „informative talks“, preventive repressions, etc) were shadowed by the events in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. For example, most places of funeral of the killed people are still unknown. Protection of broken human rights and freedoms through the system institutions, according to the previous experience doesn`t give a right on optimism. There were brought criminal charges in Hague against the crimes being commited in Croatia, Bosnia and in Kosovo and Vojvodina. Sandzak also has a right on its truth and its institutionalized recognition, as well as on an anylisis of everything burdening it. Very few victims in Sandzak got their legal satisfaction.

In the spring and summer of 1992, towns and suburbs in Sandzak were in a frightening, complete tanks-cannon surrounding by different units of the Army of Yugoslavia. Some parties, like radicals, were threatening and calling on clearing from Bosniaks bordering parts of Serbia and Montenegro towards Bosnia. Threatening behaviour by the Army, demonstration of force, everyday low flights of military aviation over the towns and villages, unrestrained paramilitary formations going to Bosnia through Sandzak, many incidents, legal insecurity and an ultimate uncertainess produced great fear and anxiety of repeating «Bosnian scenario», what influenced mass emigrations of Bosniaks towards West European countries.1 In the spring and summer of 1992, the authorities were literally catching refugees for Bosnia handing them over Serbian authority’s mercy in Bosnia. The same situation was going on in Serbia after fall of Srebrenica in the summer of 1995. Bosniak population in Sandzak, apart from all the troubles and problems that was exposed to, warmly accepted refugees staying for longer or shorter time in Sandzak towns. Mass fires and continual bomb attacks particularly on Bosniaks` houses and shops in Pljevlja, as well as attacking Bosniaks in the villages of Bukovica, in the time of tyrannical regime of chetnic duke and federal representative Milika Ceka Dacevic, will start new wave of emigrations. Within an overall frightening of Bosniaks in Sandzak there were abductions of Bosniaks (Mioca near Sjeverin -22th October 1992- 17 people; Bukovica – 16th February – 11 people; 27th February 1993 Strpci – 19 people),2 marathon court-political processes in Sandzak during 1994 (Trials in Novi Pazar and Bijelo Polje) against a part of leaders and members of SDA Sandzak, after mass arrests in the summer of 1993 and winter 1994. with an accusation that they intended to create «the state Sandzak» by force, had aim, besides a non sense indictment they wanted to imperil SFRY, was followed by great media campign to eliminate and marginalize this main Bosniak political party and frighten and disorientate Bosniaks. Arrested Bosniaks experienced big tortures in order to admit nonexistent crimes. Along with these political processes during 1994, there were continued mass police actions of arresting and beating Bosniaks looking for weapons, although it had been known the reality and weakness of the state organs to provide them security made Bosniaks to arm themselves for protection of lives and human dignity. More dosens thousand people passed police «treatment», especially in Sjenica, Tutin and Novi Pazar, Prijepolje, Rozaje. Is it necessary to say that police even knew serial nubers of the rifles they were looking for? It all looked like that story of “sugar head” which is being sold more than once.3

There were also many cases of mistreating and hurting Bosniaks performing military service in the units of Yugoslav Army.4

Attacks anvolved even mosques, Islamic monuments and cemeteries5
From media propaganda arsenal, particularly during 1992, old pejoratives «national nicknames» were brought back into the use. Bosniaks were characterized again odious «Turkish» enemies. Calling Bosniaks «Turks» with the majority is not a consequence of lack of information, but a rooted prejudice and a totally concrete attitude. Sandzak and Bosniaks in it, during the time of total uncertainess and closeness and echo of Bosnian battlefields, had been exposed to various troubles and temptations. The problem of Bosniaks grew for the territory they settle, an area between Serbia and Montenegro, as well as nearby Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. One could get an impression the authorities tried to provoke an armed protest by Bosniaks in order to get demanded justification to stop it with all available means and in that way the number of Bosniaks in this region, by various forms of frightening and torture, reduce to the least possible quantity. From Sandzak mainly went information aimed at creation and confirmation of an already created, stereotype picture on Bosniaks like extremists and fanatics. There is a persistant change of terms Sandzak with the term Raska oblast (Raska field). Novi Pazar is called « Turkized Ras». A synchronical media satanization of this region aimed at showing that Bosniaks in this region are «fundamentalists», «Islamic extremists», they support so called «green transfersal», they are preparing for the war, they have 15.000 armed people, divided into brigades and battalions. The leading media were: Vecernje novosti», «Politika ekspres», «Politika» and 'Pobjeda». Paralelly with breaking out the war in Bosnia, an aggressive campaign against Bosniaks was continued, especially after permanently repeated news that in «former Bosnia and Herzegovina», «Alija`s dzamahiria» the main warriors are just Sandzak people, that Bosnia wants to join Sandzak, that «Sword of Islam is threatening Raska», that there is a systematic work on planned uniting of Muslims, which variant is so called half-moon, i.e. the road Sarajevo-Novi Pazar-Pristina-Skopje-Sofija-Ankara. Mass illusion of armed «fanatics» and «fundamentalists» from Sandzak became an obsession not only of media but polticians, as well. By intruding one-sided information , by theories on a supposed sucidal nature of Bosniaks and by permanent, racial announcements that it is impossible to live together with Bosniaks in Bosnia any longer, media attacks were becoming more and more unscrupulous, with an aim to represent Bosniaks in Sandzak as collective conspirators and the world danger.6

When an elementary right, right on life, is in danger, there is no sense to talk about anything else.7 It is an unavoidable obligation to examine and enlight misfortune of the kidnapped people, at least to know their place of death and to sentence the culprits. Not only executors, some new Tadics, Lukics, but also planners and lawyers of violence. In Hague there were brought indicments fro crimes being commited in Croatia, Bosnia, in Kosovo and Vojvodina. Sandzak was completely marginalized. Carla del Ponte in an intrview for Podgorica «Monitor» stressed that all the crimes can`t be treated in Hague, that national courts must deal with the problem of war crimes, and that «case Strpci» must also be resolved at the courts of Serbia and Montenegro. Many crimes have simply been forgotten, although they must be the subject of interest of the state and courts.

After Dayton agreement, the picture on Sandzak, besides already mentioned stereotype pictures on Islam danger for the world, somehow changed into the picture on the region where various intelligence agencies lead: smuggling, illegal trade, drugs, washing money, prostitution, trafficking, etc. It is still persistently supported the picture on Islam as an enemy religion. July “putsch” 1997 in Novi Pazar when by the police help there was overthrown a legally elected municipal power showed the state won’t allow Bosniaks to overtake execution of already restricted communal power.8 FRY hasn’t consistently respected all domestic and other regulations guaranteeing equal rights to all the citizens, regardless their ethnic or religious affiliations, language or social status, as well as all obligatory International conventions on human rights and freedoms. Declared minority rights should be used in reality.

Turning to the future requires a responsible and rational knowledge on the past. An evil has had a deep history. Facing the past affirms new democratic values since it draws a clear line between unfree past and democratic future. Everything that had happened in Sandzak, besides the rest, was recorded and witnessed by numerous publications of Sandzak Committee for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms, as well as the ones by other organizations (Humanitarian Law Fund, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia).9

Professionally funded publications help understand stratified situation in Sandzak, analysed from various angles (political, economic, cultural, educational etc.). Publications about this area emerging elsewhere, were giving, up to now, mainly, only frame picture, without deeper entering the complexity of problems burdening this area, what essential problems still puts on the margines in comparison with current ones. Sandzak also has right on truth and its institutional recognition. For many reasons it stayed aside, out of public, although the mentioned events left deep traces on all the segments of life, especially in villages, in its border parts. By calming down the situation in nearby battlefields (Bosnia, Kosovo) tensions here also calmed down, but didn’t disappear. It was reflected by March events 2004 in Kosovo, as well as burning mosques in Nis and Belgrade. Bosniak political parties deal more with mutual disputes, becoming in fact, for immaturity, too many ambitions and numerous improvisations, more and more simple pawns in the hands of the biggest political parties in the country.

Dislike the ruling regime in Serbia until October 2000. which was crushing all Bosniak demands, new authorities in Serbia didn’t continue that practice, but also it didn’t want to recognize the real problems of Sandzak, or help this area that is visibly without enough democratic experience and necessary personnel to start the way of development. That’s why «Potemkin`s villages» and different improvisations of short characters are almost on all the levels. The biggest number of Bosniak parties in that, changed conditions, being afraid by the speed of changes, got used to prohibitions prolonging their lives on the political stages, couldn’t manage, representing Bosniak population, to articulate all the demands in an appropriate way, shifting a part of responsibility to the regime. Political mental structure remained almost the same. After conquering power in some towns, by leaving themselves to numerous affairs and incompetent conflicts material interest with that part of Bosniak parties began to dominate over political one, in a very severe and recognizable manner. The problem hasn’t been only in Belgrade for a longer time, but more more in Novi Pazar and its threatening autism. Instrumentalization of Bosniak politicians, elemental establishing of “all and everything” in Novi Pazar, supported by the regime, after 2000 left the Bosniak party with no argument. Solving certain problems only on the political level, without an essential dealing with the very society, is not enough. It is hard to have been and still be a multiple minority: for critical thinkings out, but also for the belonging to the minority ethnic communites. Protection of broken human rights and freedoms by the system institutions, according to previous experience, doesn’t encourage big optimism.

On everything that was going on in Sandzak in the last period, besides the rest, certifies numerous publications of Sandzak Committee for Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms as well as of some other NGOs (Humanitarian Law Fund, Helsinki Committee for Protection of Human Rights in Serbia).
Sandzak and Bosniaks, during the time of uncertainess and closeness and echo from Bosnia and Herzegovina battlefields were exposed to various troubles and tempetations. The problem of Sandzak and Bosniaks was increasing more and more for the territory they live, an area between Serbia and Montenegro and for nearby Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.10. Everything that had happened should be called into mind to become a structural part of historic memory. One was getting an impression the authorities was trying to provoke a kind of armed resistance of Bosniaks in this region, within the soultion of its state-territory and national issue by using various methods of force and frightening. From Sandzak there were mainly sent information to create and confirm already made stereotype picture on Bosniaks as extremists, fanatics. The consequence of destructive propagand will be long lasting, as well as many creatures of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

After Dayton agreement, the picture of Sandzak, besides already stereotype pictures on the Islam danger for the world, changed into the picture on the region with various intelligence services, illegal trade, drugs, washing money, prostitution, trafficking, etc. And there was still persistantly supported the picture on Islam as an enemy religion. July „putsch“ in 1997. in Novi Pazar when with the intervention of the police there was overthrown a legally elected municipal authority showed that Bosniaks will not be allowed to overtake execution of even reduced communal power. FR Yugoslavia hasn`t persistantly respected all the domestic Constitutional and other regulations that guaranteed equal rights to all the citizens, regardless their ethnic or religious affiliations, language or social status, as well as all the International conventions on human rights and freedoms, what obviously hasn`t happened. None of the relevant and egsistential matters of Bosniaks in Sandzak that opened by the separation of Yugoslav State Community hasn`t been solved yet. Although the authorities of Serbia, Montenegro and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia were trying to prove there hasn`t happened any violations of human rights and freedom of Bosniaks in the previous period of time, that human rights are over the world and recognized International standards, the facts were telling opposite.

The wars, by intervention of International factor, were stopped, but there is still a fear if they really were stopped. All the tensions by calming down the situation in the neighbouring battlefields (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo) were lower, but they didn`t cease. It was showed by March events in Kosovo, as well as burning the mosques in Nis and Belgrade.11 The presence of International factors is still necessary in the broader Yugoslav space, where there are societies with irrational value systems. Sandzak, as a structural part of this state and this society mustn`t stay on the margins. The state and the society must face what this area experienced. Its dark past, Orvels left to “forced forgetfulness” bearing in mind what is happening now, must not be an announcement of its future. Sandzak needs help, but not through improvisations and slogans.12

The problem that is acute is a relation to Muslims and Islam in the wholeness. Even these areas are considered a part of the West that Islam fights against. They mention „Barrier“ protecting Europe of Islam tendencies. Numerous prejudices and sterotypes are being overcome hardly. Different reporters` pens, texts on Muslims were the real cannon munition of hatred and intolerance. The whole generations have been brought in antiislamic spirit, full of mistrust with Muslims. The way of overcoming those ideological mtrixes and stereotypes on the Balkans, as well as in Europe, will be long. Today Bosniaks are described like ethnic, minority community, but they still write „Muslim“ with lower „m“, even 'Bosniaks“ with lower „b“. They bring in misunderstanding to cause further divisions.13 The use of term Sandzak is still problematic. Bosniaks call it like that, while Serbs call it Raska area. Montenegrins almost don`t mention it at all.

Multiethnic areas like Sandzak are in the conditions in which the state community of Serbia and Montenegro exists one of the barometres of general situation, the space where differences between the law and everyday life are being manifested.14 The fact is changes in Serbia since 2000. are happening but very slowly. They could be seen in bigger areas more than in the towns like Novi Pazar, Tutin or Sjenica. We shouldn`t even talk about remote villages of Sandzak. The reasons for that are deep, pressured by the past, but also by the present. Experience we had with passing Law on National Minorities, made on that time federal level, being followed by media pomp, showed inditions that those law were passed mostly under the International pressure, and less with a sincere wish of the state authorities to improve human rights and provide protection and affirmation of the minority communites. The case of Romes shows that clearly. They are permanently the topic of talks, many actions have been started but their lives changed little.15

The state organs have their parts of responsibilities for the problems in Sandzak. The matters of personnel structure, national balance, too long court processes and expiring the court processes (It particularly refers to the cases of the members of the Police. Numerous criminal charges of the victims are, according to the statistics of Sandzak Committee, for the Court disorganization, prolonging, numerous standard obstructions are out of date.16

In that context I will remind you of the cases of Mr Sabotic and Mr Djerlek, as well as of a marathon court process of trials to the group of 24 Bosniaks from Novi Pazar started in May 1993. that hasn`t still been resolved. More than 13 years their rights have been reduced. They are under hard accustations without any visible signs of possible ending the process. All the criminal cases of such kind in our state had been stopped, except in this case.We think such a behaviour of the state is because of trying the official authorities to find out a model for solving this political process without any compensation for the accused. We are reminding that right has been accomplished by the prisoners of Bijelo Polje process in 1995. Of course it is impossible to do without a meritory sentence); The status of the soldiers in the Army of SCG17, threatening criminal things (drugs, prostitution, crime and that are the youth exposed to – all of them are the matters diserving a broad elaboration. The change of Milosevic regime in serbia hasn`t meant at the same time the total break of police violence and severe misuse of professional duty. Sandzak Committee recorded the cases where police showed all its brutality.

Sandzak Committee has been addressed for help by many people of different nationalities living in this area (Bosniaks, Serbs, Romes). Possessing NP registration plates is still a motive for stopping and controls on the road. I think for actualization of Novi Pazar Priboj and Prijepolje have been neglected and we should stop such a practice. There is not any significant progress regarding implementation of the General Convention in these towns.18 There are some inditions that participation of Bosniak representatives in the local organs of power is influenced by many compromises that they must accept. This a case in several Sandzak communes. In Priboj area people should be built houses, provide property and material security.19

In Novi Pazar there is another kind of problems. Bosniaks in Nova Varos are being talked little about. They are, probably for its small number, simply forgotten. Migrations towards Bosnia, or bettter to say to Sarajevo are still existing from Priboj, Prijepolje. Novi Pazar, Sjenica, Tutin are being left by Serbs, as well as Bosniaks. These are complex matters that couldn`t be hidden. Many problems are mutual, although they are usually getting a national form.

Concern in Sandzak and for Sandzak is relly justified, having in mind an overall situation, forced reduced struggle, as well as more and more visible, hard economic crisis being manifested in all aspects of life, its more and more visible lagging behind other parts of country.It is wrong to make picture about Sandzak onlu on the sample of Novi Pazar.One should see desolated Sandzak villages, smialler towns which economically more and more disappear.A certain temporary „economic boom“of Novi Pazar, was more the result of operation of grey economy than of a planned development.

It shows more and more visible dying of Novi Pazar >>small economy<<.The state media keep talking about further economic „boom“ of Novi Pazar, what in fact takes off responsibility of the state to help it. Todey, and comparsion of infrastructure in Novi Pazar, Sjenica or Tutin, with the towns in neighbourhood, like Raska, Kraljevo, Cacak or Uzice and their investments, gives terrible, defeating results.20

Media for certain needs always emphasize Sandzak as a new, potential crisis focus, find out ptential terrorists, etc.21 Many reporters from Milosevic regime still raise tensions. The consequences of destructive propagand will be long lasting ones, as well as many creatures of regime of Slobodan Milosevic. For example they talk about Novi Pazar as one of the richest towns in the state, the town with the most expensive store premises, land for building, but they don`t want to present another, darker and more realistic side of the story: it is urbanistically totally destroyed town, the town with many poor people, destroyde factories, poor road network, bad health care conditions, weak cultural institutions, schools working in 3 shifts with 40 students in a class, young people comleting faculties with no perspective. Tutin and Sjenica shouldn’t be even mentioned. Even before separation of Yugoslavia Sandzak had been one of the least developed areas in the country. I thing that political and marketing rhetoric hides and marginalize its essential problems: undevelopment and no perspectiveness. It has led and still has been leading many people from this area. Displaced Sadzak is more numerous than this one.22

Previous experience show that part of responsibility belongs to the local authorities, so that the matter of relation between the state and minority communes requires a more subtle approach. On the example of the three communes (Novi Pazar, Sjenica and Tutin) there was showed that, regardlessthe fact Bosniak political parties had formed their authority, due to the democratic election victory, they themselves are not ready enough and personally capable of articulating all the demands of the community they represent. Improvisations are used for masking esential needs. The state is more than aware of that, but it doesn`t interfere. The examples of formation of authorities, writing school books, work of National Council showed great unreadiness, incompetence, lack of experts, what hadn`t solved the existing problems, but rather relativized them. That`s why there should be stressed the fact that there is not responsibility, although it is symmetrical but rather one-sided.

The practice existed in the time of Slobodan Milosevic regime that the state is guilty for everything can`t be maintained any longer. The representatives of Bosniak political parties and institutions must accept their, not small part of responsibility and stop pretending nothing has changed and attack the state and their own unfitness explain by obstacles and prohibitions of the state.

On the other hand ine should bear in mind the fact that Bosniak national community, according to the previous experience, doesn`t have enough professionals to do the job of writing programmes in mother language with national topics. Some publications were exposed to numerous justified critical marks, so that it is necessary to engage professionals from other cities (Sarajevo, Belgrade, Podgorica). The problems are obviously in many fields so they can`t be solved on the local level only, without professional assistance from somewhere else.

Incidents happening on the local level also show inheritance of the past is still existing.

We are also the witnesses of the whole set of problems in our area that could have unwanted consequences in the whole situation (speech of hatred in media, incidents at the sports terrains, writing down nationalistic slogans and graphites, some exeggerated statements by the politicians, etc.). We must react on time in order to avoid unwanted complications and a possible tensions raising. Experience has showed we must be awaken and careful. Numerous prejudices and stereotypes survive. All those facts should be borne in mind in speaking about this area and about anything that has been going on in the last decade of 20th century. Many things regarding Bosniaks are being forgotten and denied by the authorities.

There is one problem remaining unsolved. It is not new. Even in the time of Slobodan Milosevic`s regime when minority communities had been said to have enjoyed all the rights, according to the broad laws, everything was different. On the contrary, there still remains an impression that laws are being passed only pro forma and even legislators know nothing aboutt them. The circle is being closed there until passing some new law and its solemn promotion bfore TV cameras and certain representatives of minority communites. Positive experience of a traditional mutual living diserve to be affirmed more. Building up a civil society, with permanent education, where all the communites will live in peace and collaboration, respecting and trusting the institutions of a legal state and mechanisms which should provide personal, property security and all the rights regardless religious, national or political affiliations. The development of democracy and democratic institutions is a device for overcoming and elimination of nationalisms and other dangerous forms of divisions

In certain incidental situations on the local level there appear problems that, apart from reminding of the near past, show they can raise to the state to be hardly controlled and calmed down. Such problems may be gound at the sport events, in interethnic and interreligious relations, at the local Assemblyt sessions, election-propagand campaigns, as well as in the political conflicts within the members of an elite community. One shouldn`t forget a dangerous continuing of a further anti-islam campaign and media campaign that creates ann extra worry in Sandzak, as well as a fear of the future . Graphites about Srebrenica being written from time to time in Sandzak are dangerous.

In the context of a stereotyped definition of Bosniaks a special place belongs to Islam that is being exposed to vulgarization and discriminatory marks. The whole generations in Serbia and Montenegro have been brought up in an aggressive, anti-Islam and anti-Bosniak spirit. Deep prejudices, usually burdened with emotions, besides expressed simpahies and antipathies, are resistant to all contra arguments coming from the opposite knowledge and experience. Protection of broken rights and freedoms by the system institutions, according to previous experience, don`t give much optimism. The relation between proclaimed and factual states is usually in a big clash.

We can talk about Sandzak from many angles, and we need more time and space for that. There could be seen the differences between politicians and the representatives of NGOs. We must be critical to all the political acters. The story of Sandzak has many levels. This was an outline in the effort to approach all the noticed problems extremely carefully. We, I have to stress that, as the oldest NGO for protection of human rights in Sandzak, tried to help to overcome numerous problems on time, to help respecting all elementary human and civil rights in Sandzak and not to be on the margins any longer.

The state and society must objectively face what this area experienced, as well as the current problems, from the traps of «wild capitalism» of Latin-American kind. Its dark past, Orvel`s left to the «forced forgetfulness» having in mind anything that has ahppened here, further existing of «speech of hatred», ethnic distance, mustn`t be an announcement of its future.

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