The south-south view from Sarajevo
Radio Slobodna Evropa; Abu Banda)(Top-down: images by Midhat Poturović,
In the turmoil left after the attack on the Gaza flotilla, the people of Turkey, Bosnia and Palestine have seen their relationship strengthened into a triad solidarity.
Some press reports, in an awkward and unconvincing spin to try and blemish this triumvirate, have relied on CIA reports that the IHH (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, or Insani Yardim Vakfi, which supported the flotilla aid mission) ‘played a role in recruiting fighters in the Bosnia and Chechnya conflicts in the mid-1990s.’
At the level of contemporary civil society, there are more pressing reasons for the alliance: because of Turkey’s ban on university women wearing headscarves, young Muslim women are seeking study in Bosnia. Two of Sarajevo’s three international universities are Turkish-funded, and Erdogan personally cut the ribbon at the International University of Sarajevo.
Writing from Sarajevo, Abu Banda gives an account of what the streets looked like in Sarajevo (I quote with his permission):
‘A solidarity protest was held here in Sarajevo yesterday. It was sponsored by 11 local organizations, though it seemed that Turkish students at the International University in Sarajevo were the driving force behind the event. I would guess between two and three thousand people showed up, which is very significant for a city of this size.
‘Protesters carried Turkish, Palestinian, and a few Bosnian flags. The slogans included (in roughly decreasing order of prevalence): takbirs; “Svi smo mi Palestina” (“We are all Palestinian”); Free Free Palestine Damn Damn Israel”; and my personal favorite, “Jučer Bosna, danas Palestina” (“Yesterday [it was] Bosnia, [today it is] Palestine”).
‘The procession began from the the shopping mall in downtown Sarajevo and ended up in the main square in Baščaršija (the Turkish old town). The speakers included a representative of the Palestinian diaspora community in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bosnian politicians, and IUS student activists, one of whom dialed up a Gaza flotilla member in Turkey and had him speak to the crowd.’