News 12 Aug 13

Bosnian Politicians Blamed for Prejudices Among Youth

Young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina grow up in a political environment which fosters ethnic divisions and hatred, experts have warned.

Denis Dzidic

The road towards reconciliation is made harder by ethnic divisions developing in the younger generation, experts said as Bosnia marked UN International Youth Day on Monday.

“People in positions of power incite fear and divisions in order to shift the focus from current issues of youth – such as education, lack of jobs – to the old problem of fear from other ethnic groups,” psychologist Aleksandar Milic told BIRN.

“If a man is content, he cannot be manipulated into irrational fear,” Milic said.

According to data from the Bosnian Council of Ministers there are about 750,000 young people in the country between the ages of 15 and 30. More than 60 per cent of them are currently unemployed.

Milic said that despite incidents like an attack on Muslims going to a mosque for Eid last week, which was staged by young Serbs, violent hatred is not endemic among young people.

 “When we travel across the country and the region, we don’t see many of these incidents,” Milic said.

“Young people want to move on, but they are dragged back by the people in power, who are organising these events, which I like to call ‘demonstrations of hatred’,” he explained.

He prescribed better education in schools and more sporting, cultural and educational meetings between young people from different ethnic backgrounds as a way to develop understanding.

“It is a basic instinct of people to block painful memories, but we keep reminding young people of the worst times. It is as if we have a wound and we never allow it to heal, we keep poking at it,” he said.  

The outreach officer for the Hague Tribunal in Bosnia, Almir Alic, who has visited schools across the country in an attempt to educate pupils about the work of the international court and about transitional justice, said that young people were extremely interested in these subjects.

“Most high school students were born after the war so their sources for information are what they hear in the media or in school,” said Alic.

“They have the basic human right to know the full truth and this is why our project is a good alternative to the political interpretations we are subjected to in the Bosnian media,” he said.

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