bosnia report

  Table of contents

  Latest issue



  Support the Institute


New Series no.1 November-December 1997
The Dangers of Ethnic Partition
Muhamed Filipovic

If we were forced to create some kind of Muslim state of our own, it would inevitably be one similar to Israel. That is the only way it could survive, given that it would be arising on the basis of hostility with its neighbours. If one is surrounded by enemies, one cannot help behaving like them. This would mean that such a state would have to be organized with a high degree of homogenization, centralization, military organization and, of course, links to certain other states that would support us. I am referring, of course, to the Islamic world, and the result would be a high degree of dependence on our part - both financial and ideological - upon the Islamic countries.

A state of this kind would be a tragedy for us, especially since internal terrorism would be an inevitable feature of it - look at Israel! We all know how the West tolerates a certain kind of terrorism, as used by Israel. In other words, state terrorism - of the very kind that would doubtless have to exist in Bosnia, with all its consequences. For it is not a question of what we want, but of what we would have to do in such circumstances. In the event of a small Bosnian Muslim state emerging, its very emergence and separation would make it an expression of the victory of the principle according to which we are alien to one another, that we are enemies; so we would have to expect an attempt to strip us even of that remaining bit of a state, in order finally to solve the 'Muslim problem'. And in that case we would have to behave like Israel, with a powerful army that would guarantee us a living space. And since we cannot live cut off from the whole world, without the Sava, without the sea, we would have to think again about what is ours: we would have to encroach on 'alien' territory and doubtless take full control of Neum and Brcko, since we could not remain totally enclosed.

Spurious theories

Even though such a perspective would be a tragedy for Bosnia-Herzegovina, there are certain circles in our country who do indeed accept the idea of a basic incompatibility between religions and nations - a version of Huntington's thesis about the clash of civilizations, which is currently being vigorously propagated by Tudjman and which Milosevic has already attempted to put into practice. Such people go on endlessly about the advantages of Islamic civilization and the inadequacies of Western Christianity. This, of course, is absolutely unacceptable. Counterposing the two in this way assists Tudjman's attempt to use Huntington's concept as a model for our reciprocal relations. And it is by no means accidental that Tudjman should appeal precisely to Huntington, as others do to Kissinger, who was enlisted in support of the Serbian claim that Bosnia has never been a state, but has always been a battlefield, which is totally untrue. Bosnia has been just the opposite - a place of meeting rather than one of conflict.

The theory about a clash of civilizations suits Tudjman, because it justifies his actions. After all, he has intervened militarily and waged war in Bosnia against a state which he had recognized and with which he was allied. So he has to find a justification for the fact that he waged war in Bosnia, and he cannot find one in either the realm of politics or that of international law, but only in the sphere of ideology - which is why Huntington's thesis about the clash of civilizations serves his purpose. And now we find miserable wretches here in Bosnia - who know nothing and do not understand that we are a European people - trying to locate B-H, or more precisely us Muslims, within the framework of this philosophy as some kind of Islamic redoubt in Europe.

Ruralization and usurpation

At the same time, the ideal of a civic, multi-cultural B-H has been weakened by a powerful process of ruralization of our cities, as a result of 'ethnic engineering'. A large number of people have been brought to Sarajevo after being expelled from eastern Bosnia. We are speaking of some 170,000 people, so that about 70% of the city's population is now of rural origin. But ruralization is also a basic instrument of rule. The ruling party in practice relies upon these people, they are its hostages, and this unfortunately has long-term consequences for political relations in the country. The only city that has to some extent resisted this is Tuzla, whose social-democratic administration has not permitted such ruralization. But in Sarajevo public and especially political life is moribund, because most of the city's inhabitants today are people from elsewhere who are totally dependent on the military power that allows them to stay. They live in other people's apartments and the whole business is illegal. So the problems are immense. The government attempts to deny the rights of the apartments' real owners; it attempts precisely to legalize the vast usurpation that has taken place in this domain.

The danger is that in a whole series of areas - human rights, media, state corruption, etc. - things are going in the same direction as they are in Croatia, towards a hard autocratic regime. The Bosniak leadership is attempting to accomplish in Bosnia what has already been accomplished in Croatia: party privatiza- tion of the economy - which means it wants to take everything, so that the state becomes the absolute private property of an oligarchy. In this context, of course, we can expect to see repeated here all that is happening today in Croatia. The truth is that throughout the war in Bosnia normal legal finances simply did not exist. Money inflows were directed into private accounts, and the whole financial system was run by a single party; now the international community wants to know where the money that arrived from abroad ended up. But the people in power invoke so-called moral rather than legal principles, which is natural since no autocratic power recognizes the law - just moral principles that it itself, of course, establishes.

It is true, of course, that unlike the Croatian or Serbian regimes which carried out ethnic cleansing and genocide, the Bosnian government cannot be accused of such a policy. But this does not mean our hands are clean. The court in The Hague has its own logic, moving steadily up from the direct perpetrators towards the summits of power whence the orders came. Today it is being shown that also the Bosnian military and political authorities colluded in crimes, or at least they did not react in the proper manner to crimes committed by Bosniaks.

Plavsic and the West

Meanwhile, the Americans, with their enthusiastic support for Biljana Plavsic, are demonstrating once again their readiness to give support for so-called pragmatic reasons to leaders most of whom deserve to be tried at The Hague. Plavsic is politically no different from Karadzic. Perhaps she was not the author of the criminal policy, but she gave it her heartfelt support. She has not rebelled against a policy that, for instance, excludes Bosniaks and Croats from Republika Srpska, she is not against genocide or what the Pale Serbs have done, she is simply against criminality and blackmarketeering as instruments of enrichment of the people round Karadzic. So she has limited her actions to so-called criminal cases, but would certainly never admit that everything she and Karadzic have done is precisely criminal. In this sense she represents nothing new, no solu- tion, but is merely necessary to the West as a partner who will not be accused of directly having blood on her hands. That is all.

Western policy continues to prop up Tudjman, Izetbegovic and Zubak, continues to prop up the Pale crowd, continues to prop up Milosevic - all these people are its hostages. Some US ambassador can always come and lecture Tudjman, while still keeping him in power. They will threaten Izetbegovic, but they will keep him in power. After all, it is much easier to manipulate a person who depends upon you and whose dark secrets are known to you. For this reason I think the West's policy in our region is not correct. It is systematically designed to protect the interests of the present ruling structures. That is our problem.

These comments are translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 10 November 1997. Dr Filipovic was Bosnia-Herzegovina's ambassador to London 1994-6, heads a small opposition party called the Liberal Bosniak Organization, and is now back teaching in the philosophy faculty at Sarajevo University.

home | about us | publications | news | contact | bosnia | search | bosnia report