The Presidential Palace in Sarajevo in flames on February 7, 2014. All Photos by Minel Abaz.
By A.M. Gittlitz, vice
Anger erupted in the industrial Bosnian town of Tuzla two weeks ago after the closing of the Konjuh furniture factory, one of about a dozen companies that have shuttered after the government privatized many industries over the past few years. Coalitions of workers, students, retirees, and other citizens started marching, shouting-down politicians, clashing with police, and eventually trashing government buildings.
Bosnia and Herzogovina, BiH for short, has seen few economic booms in its short history. And with unemployment sitting at a staggering 44 percent for years (57 percent for young workers), disaffection has spread onto the streets.
As images of anger and police brutality emerged from Tuzla, protests began taking on momentum across the country. On February 7th, hundreds of people surrounded the Presidential Palace in the capital city of Sarajevo and set it on fire. There were similar protesters of varying sizes and intensity in front of government offices in across the country—including one in Banja Luka in Republica Sprska—notable because its Serbian population is generally considered at odds with Croats and Bosnians.
Last Saturday, Al Jazeera reported 300 protesters were injured—mostly in Sarajevo, where video surfaced of police officers pushing dozens of protesters over the ledge of an embankment to a canal.
Informal protest groups formed, including UDAR and Revolt, formed to help organize the protests and set up citizen’s councils known as plenums. Demands from these meetings are still to be determined, but most call for resignation of politicians, cuts to their salaries, and expanded funding of services for workers and the unemployed.