[Menu] [dDH]   If you came here via a search engine looking for news: remember that search engines are never 'up to date'. But you are close, try our front door

Protests in Serbia Archive
A students' story

Dutch weekly University Utrecht newspaper of 30th of January 1997.

Serbo-croatic architect threw red paint bombs to official buildings

"The facades were blushing, because of the many lies that were told there."

by Ingmar Heytze
translated by Ruut Brandsma (feel free to redistribute)

Optimists are talking about a second Velvet Revolution. The students from Belgrade meet every day on the square of Plato, for already more than two months now, to demonstrate against the regime of Milosevic, which seems to becomes more shaky every day. Svetlana Batarilo(26) is one of them.

The previous history is a modern fairy tale of real love. Tim van der Veer, student of General Literature at the University of Utrecht, spent his holiday in Yugoslavia, in 1990. On the Croatian island Hvar he met Svetlana, a Serbo-croatic student from Belgrade. Their holiday love develops into a serious relationship. Which is heavily put to a test, when the civil war breaks loose. Tim and Svetlana stayed together, in spite of the fact that in six years it was difficult and sometimes impossible to get contact. Last week Svetlana came to the Netherlands to be together with Tim for one month. But how happy she is to see her boyfriend again, her daily schedule is controlled by the TV-news from the BBC and CNN. And if the demonstrations would result in a real turnover, she immediately wants to go back to Belgrade.

Svetlana graduated in May '96 at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Belgrade and now works there as added assistant for teachers and students. She has participated a lot in the student actions. Svetlana: "The protests started shortly after the town council elections on the 17th of November. The electionresults were very confusing for everybody. On one of the official -and therefore censored - television channels, it was said that the opposition had won in some cities. On another channel they said that the socialists had won. And a third channel told a totally different story. A few days later the result was declared invalid."

Red booklets

The demonstrations were initially started, to get the electionresults accepted. But that is not the motive any more. The demonstrators now also want freedom of speech for the press and many people are hoping for the resignation of Milosevic. Svetlana: "The student protest is not any more the same as the protest of the opposition - although they agree for the greater part. The students don't want to make a political statement in favour of the opposition. They mainly demonstrate for democracy."

"In Belgrade there is a big square in front of the Faculty of Philosophy, which is now called the students square. On this square there is a smaller square, which is called Plato. The students came together every day in front of their own faculty and then walked together to Plato. We were walking through the streets, while we were encouraged by everybody: cars honking, people threw confetti out of their windows, talked to us and wished us luck. At noon all those flows came together. Standing on Plato, one could see students coming from all directions, with whistles, flags and small red booklets. That are our school mark lists, and that's how you can show you are a student. When the police stopped the parade, everybody seated down with the booklet on his head. Then you could see a sea of waving red booklets."

"On Plato speeches were delivered. Mostly by someone from the culture scene or a university teacher. And after that the big march started. We always passed the buildings of the official radio and tv-channels and the city hall, and threw with eggs and red- paintbombs, so the facades start blushing of all the lies that were thought up in there.~

Young pro-fascist

The student actions catch the eye because of there nonviolence and originality. There was organized a photograph election for the prettiest police officer. And the house of the rector magnificoes was all washed. Svetlana: "Every day we invent something else, often as a reaction on the coverage in the official media. The first few days the protests were totally kept silent in the Yugoslav newspapers and on the national television. Every day for sure fifty-thousand people were demonstrating and nothing was said about it. After that they claimed there were only a hand full of students. The next day students were wearing badges with the text 'I am just a passer-by', and boards with 'Look, there is coming another hand full of demonstrators!' "
"Because the demonstrations disrupted life in Belgrade, the media had to pay attention. They called us young pro-fascists, who were payed by foreign organisations to destroy their own country. The next they everybody wore a badge with the text 'Young pro-fascist'. And when students were smeared as traitors, who wanted to pull down the country, architect-students build a wall of bricks in front of the governmental building. On the this wall was written: 'Students are no demolishers, but constructors' "
"We think it is important to react in a funny way on the media, because their lies are very far-reaching. So it makes it easier for us to resist them. You should not forget that Serbia, has no free media. Belgrade has the independent radio station B92, but in the South they only have official media. There people after two months still don't know how the situation really is. The main part of the police is coming from the South, because the police from Belgrade is rather positive about us."
"How long should it go on like this? Well, there is every day a cordon of 50,000 policemen on the streets to prevent the protestmarches. That costs the government about 1 million German marks per day. Ever since salaries and pensions are not payed out regular. Everything directly goes to the police. I think that Milosevic in the end has to give in. The students have for sure no intention to stop demonstrating."
"The resistance grows everyday. Every provocation of the government is answer immediately. When radio B92 was banned, the next day 250,000 people were on the streets. I am not afraid that it will be ended with violence. Everybody has such a positive attitude. I have walked in the first lines and I only felt warmth and kindness. We wonder if it will be a second Velvet Revolution, like in former Czechoslovakia or a violent one, like in Rumania. But we do agree that there has to come something totally different. It's an adventure that will end in a very special way."

[Menu] [dDH]