The former head imam in Pljevlja, Montenegro has been sharing photographs this week depicting anti-Bosniak vandalism on his Facebook account amid incidences of attack on Bosniaks in the country that have left international genocide expert Dr Emir Ramic “concerned”.
There have been several reports of physical and verbal attacks on Bosniaks in Montenegro since last Sunday’s elections which saw opposition blocs that contain some pro-Serbian parties, win a slim majority.
Former Head imam of the Islamic Community in Pljevlja, Samir Kadribasic, who announced his resignation on the board of Islamic Community in Pljevlja yesterday on Facebook, had spoken to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) on Wednesday about broken windows at the local Islamic Community office, and receiving a message thrown through a window reading “Pljevlja will be Srebrenica,” and had been actively posting pictures on his Facebook account documenting the targeted vandalism in Montenegro’s north earlier in the week.
The images include graffitied roads, signs and buildings expressing anti-Bosniak sentiment such as “Srebrenica 92 move out Turks”, as well as the 4S symbol which is associated with Serbian nationalism.
On Wednesday morning, the imam wrote on Facebook “we’re not going anywhere, no one and never!”
He also shared two images on his account containing graffiti with Serbian nationalist symbolism and the words “move out Turk”, which he captioned:
“Freshly painted. Congratulations, this is really the way of democracy.”
International Genocide Scholars Association member and President of the Institute For Research of Genocide Canada (IGC), Dr Emir Ramic, told the Sarajevo Times he is afraid of what impact the recent attacks on the Bosniak community could have in Montenegro.
“The situation reminds us of a return of the ideologies that already led to aggression, crime and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
“The Institute for Research of Genocide Canada is concerned that the anti-Bosniak rhetoric that is for months being tolerated in public, has begun to become the basis for violent attacks by organized groups that no longer hide their criminal agenda.
“I fear such incidents could trigger unpredictable reactions…Montenegro could see the same crimes —genocide that occurred in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that saw the mass killings of thousands of Bosniaks.
“The situation in Montenegro does not make anyone feel safe,” he said.
According to Dr Ramic, the targeted violence against Bosniaks in Montenegro communicates to the Bosniak community that Milosevic’s legacy has not been put behind, that there is still “a threat to the region, and the idea of a Greater Serbia has still not disappeared.”
“There is still an attempt to unite Republika Srpska and Montenegro with Serbia,” he told the Sarajevo Times.
Leader of Montenegro’s opposition party Black on White, Dritan Abazovic, a Montenegrin born ethnic Albanian who attended university in Sarajevo, told BIRN in an interview on Thursday that
there are no such intentions to become “a province of Serbia or part of a Greater Albania”.
35 year-old Mr Abazovic said that “as never before, it is necessary to preserve peace, interethnic, and interreligious harmony” and that “every kind of violence or provocation from any side casts a shadow over the election victory,” as reported in Total Montenegro.
In resolving tensions within the country, genocide expert Dr Ramic told the Sarajevo Times that the Serbian Orthodox Church has a crucial role to play.
“They have a special responsibility regarding everything that is happening in Montenegro,” he said.
“We expect the Serbian Orthodox Church to distance itself from the Islamophobic speeches of those who officially act on its behalf and claim to speak from the position of the clergy.”
In a statement reported in BIRNon Wednesday, the
Metropolitan Bishop of Montenegro’s Serbian Orthodox Church, Amfilohije Radović, said that “an attack on the Muslims of Pljevlja is an attack on every Christian in Pljevlja and on every citizen of Montenegro,” and stated that ethnic tensions have no place in Montenegro.
Bosniaks account for approximately 8.6 per cent of Montenegro’s ethnically diverse population, residing predominantly in the north of the country.