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Protests in Serbia Archive
Appeal from MOST, Belgrade, Dec 23

As a group of professionals working in the field of social conflict analysis and resolution we turn to all similar organizations, groups and individuals who believe in the possibility of nonviolent resolution of social conflicts with great concern and request for help.

In Belgrade and in many other cities in Serbia, citizens' and students' protest walks have been taking place every day for more than a month, initiated by their dissatisfaction caused by the anulment of the election results by the ruling party. We assess these protest walks as being completely nonviolent. They show a true Gandhian manner of action, and their basic message is "Give back our votes".

What worries us the most in addition to the information blockade in the Yugoslav public media regarding these protests are the latest reactions of the regime, which we consider as moves leading to an extremely dangerous and irreversible escalation of the conflict:

  1. a renewed spreading of nationalism, xenophobia, and theories of conspiracy through the state-owned media which, while commenting on the students' and citizens' protest walks, label them as a plot against the Serbian nation, (i.e., as a "connection" between domestic "traitors", Western powers "who were for centuries enemies of Serbia", Albanian "separatists", "Ustashas" from Vojvodina, etc.), which we consider a dangerous provocation of fear.
  2. the organizations of "counterprotests", i.e., meetings of support for the president and the regime, with the announcement that on December 24th such a counterprotest will take place in Belgrade at the same site and at the same time as the citizens' protest gathering. This we consider a clear incitement of aggression and a possibility for the outbreak of civil war.
  3. instead of offering information and displaying a range of opinions, using the "common people" image in the major information programs of the state-owned media to label and spread prejudice and misinfor matiion about the behavior of the protesters without any objective facts can be seen as a model of stupidity and even brainwashing.
Especially worrying is the fact that we recognize in these three above-mentioned tactics of the regime and its media the main mechanisms that brought on the war in former Yugoslavia, and that we analyzed in 1991-1995. We consider the revival of the same apparatus by the regime to be a dangerous escalation, especially since there is no institutional counter-balance except the protest walks in the streets. Also, we fear that such moves which incite fear, hatred, and stupidity have very long-lasting and far-reaching consequences that we still have not compltely succeeded to remedy.

Therefore we ask you to please use your influence to turn the attention of the public toward this moment in the Yugoslav crisis, and do whatever is in your power to help realize the fastest possible democratic transformation in Serbia. With the fact in our minds that we did not prevent the civil war in former Yugoslavia, let us try at least to prevent a civil war in Serbia.

For Group MOST,
in Belgrade, Dec. 23, 1996.

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