As part of our project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, supported by the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, TransConflict Serbia is pleased to present the results of a survey, entitled ‘Minority Rights and National Minority Councils’.
The survey covered a total of 195 respondents, 99% which came from the Novi Pazar area. The main objective of the study was to assess the level of understanding about minority rights and the role of the Bosniak National Council in protecting and promoting them. The questionnaire collected a variety of demographic and socio-economic data of the tested samples, including place, age, level of education, number of children and average monthly income per household member.
The Minority Rights of Bosniaks
A large percentage are dissatisfied with the degree of respect for the rights of the Bosniak community in Serbia. Of the total of 195 respondents, 93 respondents (almost 50%) expressed their dissatisfaction, while only 3.1% believe that the rights of the Bosniak community are very well respected.
More than half of the tested sample considers that respect for the rights of the Bosniak community in Serbia in recent years has not changed – either in a positive or negative sense – and 16.9% considered that there was a change for the worse. Also, the respondents were able to explain their answer to previous questions, or to list examples demonstrating changes in the respecting the rights of the Bosnian community in recent years.
Some examples given of change for the better are:
- “The introduction of the Bosnian language in primary schools as an elective subject”;
- “Inclusion in government”;
- “Adding Bosnian holidays to the school calendars”;
- “Religious freedom is enhanced much more than national freedom”;
- “Improved security in personal and public life, and security in emphasizing minority characteristics”.
Some examples given of changes for the worst:
- “National council has not yet been formed”;
- “Non-Bosniak citizens are distancing themselves from us and would not like to have Bosniaks near them”;
- “Increasing discrimination towards the Bosniaks”;
- “Our religious rights are threatened by the division of the Islamic community”;
- “Forcing children to celebrate St. Sava”;
- “Discrimination in employment and investment in economic development”;
- “Few Bosnians employed in state institutions”.
The interviewed citizens of Novi Pazar, in most cases, are not sure whether any measures are taken to better integrate Bosniaks into society (42.5%), and also a great number of them (39.5%) believe that no action has been taken in this area.
The respondents who consider that the actions to encourage better integration have been taken referred the following examples:
- “Establishment of a state university”;
- “Equal rights in the use of any institutional mechanism”;
- “Non-governmental organizations with their programs of mutual understanding”;
- “Anti-discrimination law”;
- “A large number of Bosniaks in key positions”;
- “Measures have been taken through the media”.
With respect to methods to improve the integration of all communities, the respondents asserted that this can be achieved by multicultural education in schools (29.2%), local economic development (27.7%) and organizing joint cultural activities (23.1%).
Half of the tested sample (48.2%) is familiar with cases of violations or denials of minority rights, while the other half (51.3%) say that they do not know of any such case. Also, the respondents were given the opportunity to describe cases of violations or denials of minority rights with which they were familiar from everyday life.
- “unequal employment in public services where the majority of the population are Bosniaks. In Novi Pazar, the police, courts, tax offices, over 70% of the employees are Serbian nationality, while the majority of the population are Bosniaks”;
- “The school curriculum discriminates Bosniaks”;
- “Discrimination in employment”;
- “The youth are marginalized because there is insufficient space for their promotion, without them being a device of political parties”;
- “We are not represented in the state media”;
- “Lack of right for education in our mother tongue”;
- “Disdain for girls and women wearing the hijab”;
- “In particular, the rights of Roma are threatened”;
- “Denial of minority rights is also seen in the fact that the key positions are filled with incompetent party members or relatives”;
- “State media do not see the Bosniaks”;
In the case of the need to protect their minority rights, 25.1% of the respondents would contact the Bosniak National Minority Council for assistance, followed by municipal governments (18.5%) and civil society organizations (13.8%). What is of concern is the percent of those who, in any violation of their rights, would not contact anyone (16.4%). The question remains, is one of the reasons for this attitude a lack of confidence in the work of these institutions and/or a lack of information?
In the event that they require certain assistance, the largest percentage would ask for employment opportunities (41%) and legal advice (19%). These responses reflect the real situation in Novi Pazar, where most of the problems revolve around a lack of work.
Out of 195 respondents surveyed, 158, or 81% know that there is a Bosniak National Minority Council, while 19% were not aware that such a Council exists. However, when it comes to the function and purpose of the Bosniak National Minority Council, the percentage of those who are familiar suddenly decreases, and from 81% of those who know that the Bosniak National Minority Council was established, only 50% stated that they know what is its function and purpose.
The role of the Bosniak National Minority Council as the survey respondents see it is:
- “Representation of the Bosniak community”; “To improve the situation of Bosniaks in Serbia”;
- “It is unclear to me, I do not have enough information”; Important, but I am not informed about their work”;
- “To enhance the development of culture and education”; Education, culture and national symbols”;
- “Advocacy, promotion and protection of minority rights”;
- The future of Bosniaks”; To improve the situation in which the Bosnians now”;
- “Improving communication in the community”;
- “Preservation of identity and tradition”;
- “Mini-government of a national minority”; The unification of the fulfillment of the objectives of the Bosniaks”;
- “Encouraging the development of culture, education, and overall economic development in Sandzak”;
- “Have to solve all the problems of Bosniaks”;
- “As things stand, it should not exist because the regime in Belgrade and the local politicians decide for the council”;
- “The use of language and national symbols”; “Preservation of national identity”.
Also, almost 60% of the sample did not know – or is not sure if – the Bosniak National Minority Council promotes advocacy and the protection of minority rights.
With respect to the most important function of the Bosniak National Minority Council, a majority of respondents recognize its work in the field of education (38.5%), followed by culture (23.6%) and official use of language and national symbols (21%). For 53.8% of the respondents, representation of the Bosniak community in general is listed as the most important function of the Bosniak National Minority Council.
In education, 40.5% of the sample recognize that the most important issue the Bosniak National Minority Council should deal with is amendments to the existing curriculum, particularly where it concerns history, arts and literature. A large percentage (36.4%) cited as a key issue above all – the quality of education, which is one of the general goals of education regardless of the activities of the Bosniak National Minority Council.
There is still a relatively large number of members of the Bosniak community who, in case of need, would not – or are not sure that they would – turn to the Bosniak National Minority Council to defend their rights (more than 50% of the sample).
In case they would not turn to the Bosniak National Minority Council, the respondents were able to explain or to state their reason for this attitude. The main reason is a lack of information regarding the Council (22.1%). However, in the case of better informing of citizens about the role and function of the Bosniak National Council, their confidence in the work of the Council and their willingness to, if necessary, ask for help from this institution increases.
For further information about the project, ‘Promoting and strengthening the role of the Albanian and Bosniak National Minority Councils (NMCs)’, please click here.