Bosnian schools boycott over language row spreads

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) Parents of some 130 Bosniak children from a primary school in Krizevici near the eastern Bosnian town of Zvornik have joineda schools boycott in a dispute over the name of their language.

Pupils remained outside class as protests grew against the decision of the Republika Srpska government to rename the Bosnian language "Bosniak". By Tuesday a week after the new school year started more than 500 Bosniak schoolchildren had joined the boycott in six schools in the Zvornik municipality.

Bosniak politicians warned that the protest could soon spread to the rest of Republika Srpska wherever Bosniak children attend schools. "This is the first step" media reports cited Ilijaz Miralemovic a member of the [main Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action SDA on Zvornik town council as saying.

"Just like today in Krizevici the boycott will in future most likely spread to all other schools where Bosniak children attend classes until this problem is resolved" he said.

On Tuesday Republika Srpska Education and Culture Minister Dane Malesevic’s office reported that he had received a death threat in connection with the row.

The education ministry said in a press statement that Malesevic’s office received a phone call on Monday during which an unknown person insulted the minister and his staff in ethnic and religious terms and because of the language dispute threatened to “carve the Bosnian language on his forehead” and kill them all.

The dispute began a few years ago when Bosniak parents in the Serb-dominated entity demanded a curriculum that would better reflect their ethnicity.

It escalated at the end of the last school year in June when the Republika Srpska education ministry instructed all schools to start using the term "Bosniak" instead of the usual term "Bosnian" for the language. Bosnian Croatian and Serb were the terms for the three almost identical official languages that were used by Bosnia's three constituent peoples. The term Bosniak for the language was never used. "A 'new language' cannot be introduced" Nedim Civic a deputy in the Republika Srpska Assembly and one of the protesting parents told BIRN. After several failed attempts to reach a solution with the education ministry the Bosniak parents from Zvornik now want to meet top state and entity leaders but also are demanding stronger engagement from the international community Civic added. The Office of High Representative OHR tasked with overseeing the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the 1992-95 war in Bosnia has refused to comment on the problem but has instead urged the domestic actors to talk to one another. “The General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina... contains the text of Agreement in Bosnian Croatian and Serbian language...so the [1995] Peace Accords knows three official languages in Bonsia and Herzegovina” an OHR statement for BIRN said. Muhizin Omerovic one of parents whose two children have been boycotting school in another eastern Bosnian village in Konjevic Polje over the curriculum told BIRN that the problem with the education of Bosniak children had long existed all over the Republika Srpska but that not all the parents were brave enough to speak about it. “We were criticized but now it is clear that it is a problem elsewhere too” he told BIRN “I just hope that everyone will keep their dignity and be tolerant in all of this.” However as Civic – whose daughter is skipping school for the second week now in Snagovo near Zvornik – explained to BIRN the goal of parents from Zvornik is not to establish a new temporary school but to find a solution to remain a part of the entity education system. “We don't want extraordinary classes we want to be a part of the education system in Republika Srpska we want our children to go to school here” he said. “However one of our conclusions is that if all possibilities are exhausted we will opt for civil disobedience”. The problem is meanwhile spreading to other parts of the country and to Serbian pupils. In one of the primary schools in the district of Brcko - the self-governing administrative unit which is is populated by all three main ethnic groups - Serbian parents have refused to send children to classes because some teachers were Bosniaks. "Politics are involved in all this. I hope we will solve the problem we have" the head of the education department in the Brcko government Niko Stoparic told the media.

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