The theatre group challenging Bosnia’s ethnic divisions


Most Mira is the opposite of school. PHOTO/Kemal Pervanic

I was imprisoned in Omarska concentration camp. There’s a growing danger it could happen again. That’s why I’m working with young people to help stop it.

During the 1990s, I witnessed first-hand the horrific consequences of the rise of ethnic nationalism in my country, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I was born in Prijedor, one of the regions most severely affected during the Bosnian war and was among the thousands imprisoned in Omarska concentration camp. Since returning to the country in the years after the conflict, I’ve become keenly aware of the revival of scapegoating and demonisation of minorities; a political strategy that risks pushing young people into another conflict. Recognising this danger, I chose to dedicate myself to education, reconciliation and peace-building. In 2006, I started Most Mira, a charity which aims to bring together children and young people through creative and inclusive activities. By building bonds between people across ethnic divides in Prijedor, I hope we can prevent a repeat of the past suffering experienced in these very same communities.

Some of the young people Most Mira has worked with have never met person of a different ethnicity to them—even though they were born, raised and educated often within walking distance of each other. The state’s ethnically divisive policies have fostered a climate of fear and resentment, especially among young people. During and after the Yugoslav wars in the 1990s, people were so badly conditioned that they felt safer staying segregated, and this caution has been transferred, intentionally or not, to the next generations.

Mary, who first got involved with Most Mira in 2015, recalls the animosity between different ethnic minorities in her childhood. “When I moved to Prijedor from my village I attended primary school, I was in sixth grade, with a Muslim girl. One day she gave everyone in the class a braided bracelet. She made them all herself. Another student, a fellow Serb, told me it was witchcraft. I then threw it away. Today I feel sorry that I have not kept it as it was a very nice gesture from her.”

When Mary first joined Most Mira, her family didn’t approve of her participation. Some disliked that she was spending time around people from different backgrounds, and others thought acting was a waste of time. They could not understand the importance of the space we provided for young people like Mary—the only space in the society where they felt welcomed and free. Three years later Mary told me her mother has started supporting her and accepted her wish to study acting in the near future.

Generation with no future in Bosnia?

Mary is part of a generation of young Bosnians—regardless of their nationality or ethnicity—who have been ignored and neglected by the Bosnian political system. They feel unwanted in the country of their birth. They pursue their studies with no expectation or hope of landing any job, let alone one for which they study in school.

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