I saw the first mention of protests in Sarajevo last Wednesday via an online Bosnian newspaper.  My heart beat faster as I read about a relatively small incident of protest in downtown Sarajevo, because my heart knows that anything blown out of proportion in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia could potentially lead to gruesome results. That, at least is the fear. What was the whole thing about, I wondered and quickly looked it up to find a few basic answers. I posted on Twitter and Facebook.  Not many people I knew where talking about it at all.

Bosnia’s next generation, a sort of sleeping baby Hulk, has been kept complacent by the poisonous rhetoric of  ‘ethnic hatred’  and had not yet shown signs of anger, had yet to move, to act.
About anything.
Protesting seemed to lead to bad consequences in Bosnia, I had to wonder if a spark like this would once again put everyone in grave danger. Yet, – I felt excitement, happiness almost. I fantasized calling my friends to say I was on my way.

The Twitter hashtag #JMBG emerged to identify what it was all about, namely the “jedinstveni matični broj građana”, the number assigned to individual citizens to identify their person and place of birth.


Initially a gathering by a few hundred people in front of the Parliament building, which happened to be in session occurred on Wednesday. The protesters gathered to vent a months long grievance about the non issuance of national ID numbers, the amendment for which has been stalled since February 2013. Citizens need the numbers to apply for passports and travel visas. The basic right of free movement was denied to Bosnians born after February.

Like Istanbul the week before and the various similar #Occupy movements that set precedence around the world, Sarajevo protesters met on a relatively small platform initially. Once the first step was taken though, the sleeping giant awakened. The realization that in numbers change could be made took over in a giddy, if cautious momentum forward
Four days later thousands stood together in downtown Sarajevo and demanded, albeit peacefully, that a resolution be found immediately regarding the ID numbers. The more organized and cohesive the protest the clearer the mantra: ‘Do your Job’, suggesting that the political representatives do the work they were elected to do. The police were called and came.  Some goons from the Republika Srpska tried to pawn off the  blockade of the Parliament building  on that first day as an ethnically motivated plot to intimidate the Serbian politicians of the group. People were outraged. Even more students and young people from all over Bosnia threw in their support and staged similar non-violent protests in a dozen other cities around the country, including the RS itself.

Suddenly, Bosnian citizens, who find themselves living in a country that is badly compromised by the memory of conflict, unresolved war crimes and a forced division stemming from the disastrous Dayton Accord, seemed to have awakened from their slumber like state.

Emboldened, the streets filled up. Largely aided by postings and updates on Twitter and Facebook showing endorsements from as far away as Chicago and the Congo, the drum beat went on. Even Belgrade and  Banja Luka sent messages that they were in solidarity.  Sarajevo youth became alive with purpose.

My heart goes out to the peaceful protesters of Bosnia.