News 06 Jun 17

Bosnian Serbs to Ban Lessons on Srebrenica Genocide

Milorad Dodik, the president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska, said that the use of schoolbooks teaching about the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo will never be allowed.

Danijel Kovacevic
BIRN
Banja Luka
Milorad Dodik. Photo: Anadolu.

Children in Republika Srpska’s schools will never be taught about the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo, President Milorad Dodik told a press conference in Banja Luka on Tuesday amid controversy over a proposed ban on textbooks that include the subjects.

“Here it is impossible to use schoolbooks from the Federation [Bosnia’s other, Bosniak and Croat-dominated entity] in which it is written that the Serbs committed genocide and held Sarajevo under siege. It’s not true and it will not be studied here,” Dodik said.

Dodik was supporting an announcement by the RS entity’s minister of education and culture Dane Malesevic, who said that textbooks from the Federation will be banned in RS if passages about the wartime siege of Sarajevo or the 1995 mass killings of Bosniaks from Srebrenica by Serb forces are included.

Malesevic justified his decision by citing a 2002 agreement signed by all ministries of education in Bosnia, which said that there will be no war topics in schoolbooks.

However, in the Federation, the history textbook for 9th grade pupils, approved for use in all primary schools in the entity, includes material about the Sarajevo siege and the Srebrenica genocide.

“Bosniak children, who study a national [ethnic] group of subjects in RS, will not use such textbooks,” Malesevic said on Monday at a press conference.

“The RS Ministry of Education and Culture is only respecting the agreement and the recommendations of the OSCE about embarking on the study of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina so that children will not be burdened with the topic. This is in their best interests and in the interest of healthy coexistence in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.

The OSCE said that it did not know anything about textbooks dealing with the war, nor who approved them.

“I cannot confirm what is the status of the 2002 agreement. It is clear that there are too much politics in education and we want to see more positive things, more computers, schools in good shape and far less policy,” Jonathan Moore, the head of the OSCE mission in Bosnia, told N1 television.

Muhizin Omerovic, a representative of parents of Bosniak children from Konjevic Polje, a village in RS, who are taught under the Bosniak ‘national curriculum’, told news website Klix that the decision came as no surprise.

“That is just a continuation of the ban on studying the Bosnian language and national classes,” Omerovic said.

He was referring to a long-running row over the official definition of the language spoken by Bosniaks in Republika Srpska, which is defined differently by the constitution of RS and the Bosnian state constitution.

While the latter defines the three official languages of the country as Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian, the RS constitution employs a slightly different formula, stating that the official languages of the entity are those of “the Serbian, Croatian and Bosniak peoples”.

The difference is symbolically important for Bosniaks, many of whom want their language defined as ‘Bosnian’, because this would reaffirm the existence of a common cultural and historical heritage in the country.

“Considering the situation, I think that they will manage to ban the books because we have been fighting for the issue and the recognition of the language for four years and we have not resolved anything yet,” Omerovic said.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, pupils have the right to be educated according to their own ‘national’ (ethnic) curriculum, which means they study in their own language (Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian), and several subjects are taught differently according to their ethnicity, such as religion and history.

Some schools in the country also operate the controversial practice of ‘two schools under one roof’ - separating pupils into different classes in the same building on the basis of their ethnicity, which critics say perpetuates ethnic divisions.

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

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