Radovan Karadzic’s face is everywhere. The photos are no longer the mug shots of a wanted man, but a strange collection of images showing the transformation from his old to his new persona – from confident commander to gentle (appearing) guru. And the reactions to his arrest are just as diverse – many of you will have read about the pro-Karadzic rallies that have been going on here in Belgrade. The protests were held in the center of the city, in Republic Square, which is where Women in Black also hold their street actions – however these were no silent vigils. The raucous crowd spilled out into the surrounding streets, and a B-92 cameraman was assaulted two blocks away from my apartment, on one of the routes I take to work.
For the first few turbulent days after the arrest, I was traveling with Women in Black in northwestern Bosnia (more on that in the next post); when I came back to Belgrade, it felt like the city had changed. Standing with colleagues, looking at television footage of the marching crowd, the familiar scenery of Belgrade’s city center appeared transformed. I realized that, as with a person, there are sides of a city that you don’t get to see until you are around them for a while.
I feel I must also include a link to this opinion piece in the Moscow News (an English-language weekly in Russia), because it explains the perspective of many of those protesting the arrest of Karadzic as unfair. It would be hypocritical to ignore it. You can then read Women in Black’s position on the arrest in this Advocacy Project News Bulletin about the reaction of Balkan peace activists to the Karadzic’s arrest. Although the majority of public opinion probably lies somewhere in between these two examples, it really illustrates how radical Women in Black are; it is easy for the New York Times or the BBC to hail Karadzic’s arrest as long-awaited justice, but here in Serbia, that point of view is far from popular.
Finally, I want to add that people in cafés and markets have been as gracious as ever to me, even when I reply “iz Amerike” to their question about where I come from.
Posted By Janet Rabin
Posted Jul 31st, 2008