JMBG refers to the citizenship law that still has not been passed in Bosnia. One side wants social security numbers coded to show ethnicity. It has created an impasse in the parliament, and now has led to the death of a small girl. This grew into a national movement when a child, Berina Hamidovic, born in March, needed special medical attention in another country. She was born after a law that assigned social security ID for new citizens expired. Last week, because of public and international attention, Berina and her family were afforded “special” travel documents for travel.
The Bosnian government has three main parties, largely identified by the warring sides in a war that ended after NATO intervened in 1995.The minority Bosnian Serbs are holding up a vote to authorize social security numbers for all new born children. The law expired this past winter, and a new law has not passed leaving thousands of children essential non-persons, without access to passports or healthcare benefits. The Serbs want the new numbers to reflect the person’s ethnic identity. The majority Croats and Bosniaks in parliament want random numbers without an ethnic identifier. Last week Bosnians of all faiths, or no faith blockaded parliament for more than 14 hours, refusing to allow MPs to leave until the law was passed.
This week the ethnically-Muslim family was stopped and held at the Serbian border by officers who, in a blatant case of harassment and bigotry, claimed they needed to verify the family’s documentation. The delay took precious hours that Berina did not have. Doctors in Stuttgart Germany said that if Berina had not been delayed due to the Bosnian government issue and the further delay by Serbian customs police the girl would have survived.
This is what happens when governments don’t work, don’t compromise and aren’t ultimately sensitive to their people. The opportunity she had was due entirely to the thousands who peacefully blockaded the parliament and refused to let politicians leave. Be a peaceful force for change, Be community!
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