11 February 2014 – On Wednesday in Sarajevo will be held the First Sarajevo Citizens’ Plenum. Everyone is invited, other than members of political parties, according to the leaflet that was distributed on Tuesday to protestors in the streets.
‘Behind us stand no political parties or organizations. We know that behind us stand only many years of humiliation, hunger, helplessness and hopelessness,’ according to the members of the Initiation Committee for the Organization of a Plenum. Among them is Svjetlana Nedimović, doctor of Political Science, currently unemployed.
In an interview with [Radio Free Europe] RFE she discusses the expectations of the Plenum and massive participation of Bosnian citizens.
RFE: What concretely is the meaning of a Sarajevo Citizens’ Plenum?
Nedimović: Everyone is invited, everyone is welcome – other than members of political parties. Everyone speaks for themselves, everyone is listened to, and then they can decide what can be put up for a vote, what agenda to adopt. We will have moderators. After the first meeting of the plenum a decision will be taken to decide under which rules it will continue functioning.
RFE: What do you expect will concretely happen tomorrow?
Nedimović: I expect that people will begin to listen to one another and they will realize how much they have in common. Since I was one of those who’ve been on the streets all these days I understood, and there’s always this talk about how there are different demands, I understood that in their essence the demands are very similar, only that we haven’t had the opportunity to speak openly with each other in a calm atmosphere.
RFE: There were four demands put forward in today’s leaflet that is a call to all citizens of Sarajevo to come to the plenum. What are the demands – they are things that were heard on the streets these days, correct?
Nedimović: They are, precisely, elementary things. One is that the security of peaceful demonstrations will be guaranteed, to take no measures in order to restrict this right, and to guarantee for us security on this occasion. Furthermore, we demand the immediate resignation of the Federal government. We are also asking to do nothing with respect to the composition of a new cantonal government [for Sarajevo] until a Plenum is organized and it is able to put forward its opinions and demands. It should be coordinated with the demands of the citizens. The fourth point is simply that this is only the beginning.
RFE: Do you expect that after Wednesday, the protests will develop into a more coherent movement?
Nedimović: I honestly believe that they have been coherent the whole time, just that we do not have a public space in which we can, in an organized, manner discuss all of this. Therefore, of course, it will seem like some type of cacophony. What will happen on Wednesday is that we will have a summary of what people discussed. I think it will become very obvious that people already know what they want.
RFE: Let’s return to Friday and the demonstrations at the Sarajevo Cantonal Government building. Much has been said about those protests in the last few days. How much of what has been said in the media and what politicians have said is an attempt at manipulating something that really did begin as a social revolt.
Nedimović: It’s unbelievable that till 10 days ago everyone was taking about how people are patiently suffering their fate. And now when they’ve come out onto the streets, then everyone is suddenly wondering where did this come from. It seems to me that this is a pretty inconsistent position. Our public space is contaminated with political parties that are attempting to either discredit everything coming from the citizens, or somehow to find in that something for their own personal use. I think that it is essential to say that there are no [political parties] behind this, that behind this [movement] stand only hunger, humiliation, and the deprivation of all our rights for all of these years.
RFE: We must say that there have been attempts at political manipulation. I believe that you in the Initiating Committee of the Plenum are aware of this. How was this attempted? Can we speak about that?
Nedimović: What we can talk about is what we noticed on the streets, and that is that these party hawks prey on people, they attempt to impose themselves, they attempt to get hold of the megaphone. Then there are those parties that issue statements and are interpreting what is happening in their own way. There are attempts to discredit the people who are on the street. We must be aware of these things. This is the risk that I believe all of us assumed when we went into the streets.
RFE: Several times in the past few days you mentioned to the media that you were a doctor of Political Science and that you were currently unemployed. Today on the street one could hear among the workers and the pensioners: ‘Where are the intellectuals today, why aren’t they here?’ How many intellectuals are there in the Initiating Committee for the Sarajevo Citizens’ Plenum, people who could articulate the demands of the several groups that are on the streets today?
Nedimović: I believe that the people who are in the Initiating Committee are not expecting that they will articulate [the citizens’ demands], they will assist people in the organization of the space and in the public discussion, but the people themselves will articulate [their demands]. I don’t believe that just because someone has a title in front of their name they can more clearly say what they want and how they want to live. All I can say is that on the Initiating Committee there are sentient beings – and we found many sentient beings on the streets, people who have common sense and who care about this society. Where are the intellectuals? I think that perhaps we don’t even have to ask this question. There are, of course, people who are afraid – not only the intellectuals, of various profiles, but pensioners and workers as well. It’s important that we have support – and that is seen in the media – of many intellectuals, many public personalities. And most importantly, the support of many who have suffered like us all these years.
RFE: Do you expect that this social revolt in Bosnia will change something?
Nedimović: I would personally say, now I’m speaking in my own name, that the time for this is long passed. Will something change? I think we can no longer afford to believe that something will change. This is a terrible luxury in which, day-in-and-day-out, and year-in-and-year-out, we lose in this way. Therefore, we’re going towards something new. It’s not that we don’t have a choice, it’s not that we can wait around another 10 years for something to change. This [revolt] has already changed something.