Perspectives on the Bosniak National Minority Council

As part of TransConflict Serbia’s project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, Mirjana Kosić, executive director of TransConflict Serbia, visited Novi Pazar and met with representatives of the three respective Bosniak lists.

By Mirjana Kosic and Samid Sarenkapic

Ms. Kosić gave a brief introduction about TransConflict’s mission, its specific areas of interest, with a particular emphasis on the promotion of ethnic, religious and cultural rights in multi-ethnic communities. At the same time, Mr. Samid Šarenkapić, TransConflict’s local coordinator in Novi Pazar, gave more detailed information about the project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’,  its overall objective and its distinct phases of implementation.

During a meeting with representatives of the Bosniak National Minority Council (BNMC) in a technical mandate – Mr. Muhedin Fijuljanin, vice-president, Mrs. Mevluda Melajac, head of department for official use of languages, Mr. Ahmedin Skrijelj, legal officer and Alma Husić, advisor – a number of pertinent issues were discussed.

Having provided insights into the current situation in Sandžak, representatives of the BNMC specifically emphasised the need for dialogue at all levels, as well as greater cooperation between stakeholders and the general public. They observed that Bosniaks are customarily being reduced to a religious minority group, whilst the whole region has been perceived in negative light, often owing to biased media reporting.

On the other hand, the BNMC reminded that Bosniaks themselves will not be able to attain their rights unless they first achieve an internal consensus over some key issues. Bosniaks, in their view, have the potential to be a factor of peace in the entire region, yet they have to be constructive and open for dialogue and compromise.

On behalf of the Bosniak Cultural Community (BCC), representatives of TransConflict Serbia were received by Mr. Jahja Ferhatović, President of the BCC, Mr. Sead Šaćirović, Vice-President of the BCC and Mr. Salahudin Fetić, the BCC’s secretary.

Mr. Ferhatović gave a brief chronology of events leading to the formation of the BCC, and its subsequent participation in the elections for the Bosniak national minority council, emphasising that the BCC has in the meantime become a place where a large number of citizens address their complaints regarding state institutions, which – according to Mr. Ferhatović – clearly demonstrates that the local population is not aware of the BNMC’s competencies and mandates.

The last meeting was held with Mr. Seadetin Mujezinović, president of the Bosniak Revival list, who reflected upon the Bosniak Revival’s pre-election campaign, which was based on calls for building a national consensus and unity over crucial issues. Mr. Mujezinović expressed his satisfaction with TransConflict Serbia’s current initiative in Sandžak and emphasised their willingness to support all activities aimed at promoting dialogue and awareness-raising campaigns targeted at informing the population about the role and competencies of the BNMC.

Despite certain differences in their respective agendae, representatives of the three lists agreed that the Bosnian language has to be included in the official curriculum, with a supervisory mechanism that would guarantee the full implementation of this and other minority rights. Also, steps need to be taken to inform the local Serb community about the function and purpose of the BNMC, in order to dispel potential fears or disagreements on their part.

These meetings coincided with completion of the first phase of project implementation – i.e. a survey of citizens on a number of issues pertaining to the Bosniak National Minority Council, as well as the situation with minority rights in Sandžak – the results of which will be presented in the near future. This visit was organised with the kind assistance of Mrs. Zibija Šarenkapić, from Novi Pazar-based organisation DamaD.

To learn more about TransConflict’s project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, please click here.

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