Illegal Holiday Celebration Adds to Tension in Bosnia

Leader attacks new US sanctions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 9, 2022 10:30 AM CST
Illegal Holiday Celebration Adds to Tension in Bosnia
Bosnian Serbs carry a giant Serbian flag Sunday in Sarajevo.   (AP Photo)

During Bosnia's greatest political crisis since the end of its 1992-95 interethnic war, the country's Serbs celebrated an outlawed holiday Sunday with a provocative parade showcasing armored vehicles, police helicopters, and law enforcement officers with rifles, marching in lockstep and singing a nationalist song. Addressing several thousand spectators gathered in Banja Luka, the de-facto capital of the Serb-run part of the country, Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik disparaged sanctions Washington slapped on him last week over his alleged corrupt activities and threats to tear the country apart, the AP reports.

"This gathering is the best response to those who deny us our rights ... who keep imposing sanctions on us," Dodik said. The Jan. 9 holiday commemorates the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state in Bosnia, igniting the multi-ethnic country's devastating, nearly 4-year war that became a byname for ethnic cleansing and genocide. The holiday was banned in 2015 by Bosnia's top court, which ruled that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against the country's other ethnic groups—Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

During the war that killed 100,000 people and turned half of the country's population into refugees, Bosniaks and Croats were persecuted and almost all expelled from the Serb-administered half of Bosnia. After the war, under the US-brokered Dayton peace agreement, Bosnia was divided into two semi-autonomous governing entities—Republika Srpska and one dominated by Bosniaks and Croats. The pro-Russian Dodik advocates the separation of the Bosnian Serb mini-state from the rest of the country and making it part of neighboring Serbia. He's described Bosniaks as "second-rate people" and "treacherous converts" who sold their "original (Orthodox Christian) faith for dinner."

(More Bosnia stories.)

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