I’m back from Belgrade (more on that later) with some rather sad news. Berina Hamidovic, the infant girl that inspired the protests in front of Parliament in Sarajevo, died last week.
I realize Brazil and Turkey are getting a lot of international media attention, but I think this is an important story to tell. Early this year, a law governing identification numbers in Bosnia was allowed to expire. My understanding of this issue is basic at best, but the best comparison I can draw is to social security numbers and birth certificates: imagine, for a moment, not having either. You would not be able to travel outside the country, and would have great difficulty obtaining insurance, medical care, or even getting enrolled in school.
The children born in Bosnia and Herzegovina since February face such a situation. One of them, Berina Hamidovic, was born with traheoesofagealna fistula, which made it impossible for her to eat.
I think sometimes my representations of this country may mislead my audience. Make no mistake, however: it is a developing country. If you need a complicated medical procedure, as Berina did, you must leave the country. Unfortunately for Berina and her parents, without an identification number crossing the border to get to Belgrade for treatment became a fiasco.
Berina’s story became public, and protests in front of Parliament and other governmental bodies in Bosnia ensued. I have a choice view of the protests from my office, and the demonstrations have thus far been peaceful.
Two weeks ago the protestors trapped members of Parliament in the building until 4 am (and when staff tried to escape out the windows they were chased back in by protesters screaming “Go back to work!”). The civil society here is not very active, and people have come from all over for this protest.
The politicians issued a temporary fix that allowed Berina and her family to get to Belgrade, but have yet to pass a permanent law (I will not presume to explain a complicated ethnic situation to you, but I can assure you the politicians are resting their inaction on this).
Berina died late last week in Belgrade due to complications. I do not know how treatable her condition was, but I am sure that the incredible delay in getting her medical treatment only hastened her death.
I haven’t endeavored to find out whether the little girl was Serb, Croat, or Bosniak; but her name was Berina and we will remember her because a bunch of politicians didn’t see fit to give her, and the other future generations of this country, a legal identity.
A view of the protest from my office.
Dosta! (Meaning Enough!)
One of the many diverse protesters, who was kind enough to let me photograph her despite the language barrier.
The protests continue today, but I do not know how much stamina the already exasperated Bosnian civil society will have against the country’s politicians. What is heartening, however, is to see the people of a country once plagued by conflict joining together regardless of age, ethnicity, or otherwise, to fight for Bosnia’s future.