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Serbia: with youth on their side
Serbia has reached a boiling point as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic stepped up his campaign of repression against independent media. On 17 May, the government closed down the prominent Belgrade municipal broadcaster Studio B—controlled by oppositionist Vuk Draskovic, head of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO)—and pulled the plug on Radio B292. And independent radio station Radio Pancevo was subject to heavy signal disruption. Major protests—some brutally suppressed by police—have taken place throughout the country, most notably with some 30,000 people gathering in Belgrade on 17 May. Trouble has been brewing since the 13 May murder in Novi Sad of Bosko Perosevic, head of the provincial government in Vojvodina. The authorities were quick to accuse the two men implicated in the killing, Stanko Lazendic and Milos Gagic, of having ties to the Otpor! resistance movement and Draskovic's SPO. Otpor! sprang up from the widespread disillusionment of young urban Serbs with Serbia's political classes in the late 1990s. The movement was decisively shaped by the nation's frustration at the aggressive and ultimately unsuccessful conduct of Milosevic's regime in the Yugoslav wars and his increasingly repressive policies toward the Serbs themselves. But the notorious inability of the Serbian opposition to offer credible alternatives also became an important factor in its inception. Since the movement's official launch in October 1998, Otpor! has maintained its commitment to non-violence and political independence; it still limits its demands to calling for free and fair elections and the abolition of repressive media and university laws. What gives Otpor! broad appeal—and probably the regime sleepless nights—is the age of most of its members. Well-established defamation methods don't work so well with 20-year-olds. Accusing feuding and corrupt opposition leaders of treason is implausible for the majority of the Serbian public, but labeling Otpor! activists "NATO mercenaries" is laughable. Below are excerpts of a speech from a 20-year-old Otpor! activist at a 15 May opposition rally.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, two days ago, during the annual agricultural fair in Novi Sad, a man was murdered. That man, Bosko Perosevic, was killed on Saturday by a security guard ... who was never an Otpor! activist, nor a member of the SPO. ... Perosevic hadn't even reached the cemetery before vampires from his party [the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS)], had uncovered the perpetrators, and [Minister of Information] Goran Matic exhibited on RTS [Radio-Television Serbia] manuals of physiological warfare [allegedly collected from the suspect's home]. Let us demonstrate that for us, unlike for them, Bosko Perosevic is first a human being, a victim, and not a political adversary. Let us pay our respects with a minute's silence and pronounce together "Rest in peace." ...

They [the authorities] are frightened of the clenched fist [Otpor!'s sign] because that fist stands for solidarity. Civic leaders, citizens, show them what solidarity looks like, raise your fists! This is the fist of a people's revolt against terror and fascism, this is the fist of the people's resistance against madness, this is the fist of a people's unity. So, listen up friends from [opposition political] parties, from non-governmental organizations, from independent media, listen up honorable judges, lawyers, retirees, professors, and workers, listen up all of you from Belgrade, Uzice, Kragujevac, Nis: LET US ALL ASSEMBLE INTO ONE HUGE FIST AND WIN!

At last I ask you, my dear friends, do you have the courage? We from Otpor! will be hounded in the following days and we'll be captured like animals. We will be pronounced by them as being guilty both for the murder [in Novi Sad] as well as for the [UN and European Union] sanctions and the inflation. ... They will try to ban us everywhere ... because our unity and our solidarity is their worst nightmare. Tell me why, dear friends, are you frightened? Will you bow your heads before the oppression and the madness, or will you continue to honorably carry the fist? Will you accept the fascism of the departing dictator or will you resist the madness? Let me hear you. ... [uproar from the crowd] This means that from this day Serbia begins a period of solidarity among all the fighters for freedom, independent of what political party they are from, or from what city, or religion ... who, during these last spasms of the regime, will be the victims of the madness and repression. I call upon you to begin, starting from today, an all-encompassing, non-violent resistance; a peaceful and civic, but also a resolute and massive popular revolt for the scheduling of democratic elections. In this struggle our steadfastness will be our response to repression; our peaceful protest to their oppression, our smile to their hysteria; our truthfulness to their lies; our pens for a democratic ballot to their guns, truncheons, and beatings. All of these five things clenched together in one huge united fist are a sign of our sure victory ... Hold your head high, Serbia, hold out. Resistance until victory.

Translation provided by Group 484, an email information service on the former Yugoslavia.

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