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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
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."
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.~
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."