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news 06 Feb 14

New Protest Clashes Erupt in Bosnia’s Tuzla

Protesters clashed with Bosnian police in Tuzla for a second day as thousands rallied to express their anger about unemployment and the collapse of local industries.

Dusica L. Ikic Cook, Elvira M. Jukic
BIRN
Tuzla, Sarajevo

Tuzla cantonal government building after the clashes

Around 70 people have been hospitalised, including some 50 policemen, in renewed unrest as several thousand people joined the second day of protests in the industrial town in northern Bosnia on Thursday.

The clashes erupted after some demonstrators hurled stones and eggs, breaking windows at the Tuzla cantonal government building as they expressed their anger about continuing high unemployment, economic hardship and factory closures in the town. Eight people were arrested, police said.

“The people have nothing to eat, people are hungry, young people do not have jobs, there is no healthcare insurance, no basic rights. It can't get any worse,” one of the protesters, who gave her name as Maja, told BIRN.

Several hundred people also joined a parallel protest in front of the Sarajevo cantonal government building in the Bosnian capital on Thursday, expressing support for the Tuzla demonstrators and discontent with the country’s poor economic conditions.

Some also threw eggs and stones, breaking several windows. Two policemen were injured in scuffles.

One protester said it was time for Bosnians to wake up after “sleeping for two decades” since independence.

“Everyone must go out [onto the streets] because this Titanic will soon sink,” the protester, Sanin Cepalo, told BIRN.

There were also smaller protests in the north-western town of Bihac and in front of the Zenica-Doboj cantonal government building, local media reported.

Thursday's rallies came the day after 27 people were arrested and more than 30 injured in Tuzla when a march led by workers who were demonstrating about the closure of their factories ended in scuffles as protesters blocked roads and tried to break in to the cantonal government building.

Police in Tuzla

Most people who were injured during the Tuzla protest on Wednesday were hit by stones thrown at the government building by protesters, but there were also allegations that police officers had beaten people.

Among the injured was a cameraman for radio-television Slon from Tuzla, Branimir Pavicic.

The Bosnian Association of Journalists condemned what it said was a police attack on a media worker, saying that Pavicic was assaulted even though he was obviously a cameraman and was wearing a badge identifying himself as press.

The OSCE’s media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic, called for the incident to be investigated.

“The role of the police is to protect journalists and to make sure they can report on incidents of public interest in a free and safe manner. I condemn today’s attack on Pavicic and call on the authorities to fully investigate this attack and to prosecute the person responsible,” Mijatovic said.

The protest on Wednesday was led by several hundred redundant workers from large industrial companies which collapsed after they were privatised, who took to the streets, demanding compensation and the reimbursement of healthcare and pensions payments they had made while they were in work.

They initially demanded that the government to ensure continued employment at two of the failed firms, the detergent company Dita and furniture company Konjuh.

But after hundreds of unemployed people and others joined the rally, the protest turned into a more general expression of discontent about tough economic conditions and the collapse of industry in Tuzla, where there used to be several large and successful factories.

The cantonal government has rejected the demand to maintain jobs at the Dita and Konjuh factories, arguing that the two firms are now privately-owned.

Street protest in Tuzla

 

 

   

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Background

The ‘Bosnian Spring’ Starts With a Bang

The Bosnian protests are the result of years of corruption, economic decay and in-fighting among ethno-political elites, but it is far from certain that they can bring real change.