Saturday, January 27, 2007

Up in smoke

I admit it. I am weak, I am a loser, and I have no backbone- I smoke, and I started it after the age of innocence. My whole high school period, and my university days I managed to be strong, and not to bend for the coolness of a smoke in the corner of your mouth when in a bar, but within a month in BiH I had my first cigarette. Admittedly, I do not smoke that much (only when I drink, but while writing it down like this it looks even worse), and even cheaper, I am a mooch- I never buy, but I prey from 'real' smokers. All excuses aside, I do what I detested. And will be a pariah for it in the EU.

But not in BiH. I have never been in a place where so many people smoke. All have different excuses for it, varying from stress of the war to 'it is culture', but no-one gets diseases from it. People told me that the percentage of people dying from smoke related diseases if BiH is very low. One way or another I doubt that, but then again, if you see the drinking and driving culture here, maybe that is because people do not live long enough to get those diseases anyway. Fact is that the percentage of smokers here is extremely high.

Unlike in the EU, there is no government-run campaign to stop people from smoking, and smoking seems to be completely acceptable. The other day I had a lay-over at Budapest airport. The Bosnian handball team was on my flight there from Sarajevo, too, and when we landed the first thing half of the team did was rushing of to a smoking corner on the airport, and started puffing away. In all countries of the former Yugoslavia handball is big, and those men are the top athletes of their country. Seeing them smoking so undisciplined surprised me a bit. Maybe indeed it is more culture then addiction. I really hope so, that it is culture, because that would be good for me and my lungs. It means that as soon as I leave BiH, I will quit this little vice, and adapt to the culture of the place that I will be in at that time. Like folk dancing, or Fierljeppen.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Twenty (20) kilometers

Bosnia Herzegovina has twenty (20) kilometers of highway. That's all. Twenty (20) kilometers. For a country which has roughly the size of Holland (it is just 10,000 square kilometers bigger), that is not much. However, in 2003 it had one (1) kilometers. And it has been even worse. So there has been some progress over the last few years.

Road constructions are ongoing, always, and there are plans to make a highway through the country, which will lead from the Adriatic Sea to Budapest. Seeing is believing.

The reasons for the limited amount of highway kilometres is two-fold, so I have been told. Reason number one is that the terrain of BiH is not really suitable for highways. The country is very mountainous, which makes it difficult to build the highways. Eevn I, as a layman, can see that. Reason number two is of a completely different nature: apparently, no highways were build in BiH on specific order of Tito- it was a matter of national defense.

Although by many considered a communist (and admitedly, I think he was one), Tito was as distrustful of the Warsaw Pact as he was of NATO. As he result he not only built up the Non-Alligned Movement, he also built up the fourth stongest army in Europe. Not having nuclear weapons though, he needed another advantage over possible invaders from the East or the West. He made an army that was trained in guerrilla warfare, an army that consisted to a large extent of militia's, like the partisan army in the Second World War. A guerrilla army is successful if it can make full advantage of the terrain it operats in. Bosnia, being the rough country that it is, was in his opinion the best place for his guerrilla army to fight invaders (the proof of this pudding was in the eating in the 1990's, but not as Tito intended it). So in times of war, the Yugoslav army was supposed to withdraw to Bosnia, and continue the fight from there. Tito knew that advancing modern armies need good infrastructure in order to be succesful. They needed highways to move on. So not building them in Bosnia, was part of national strategy.

This explanation is given to me by a few people. I can not check it on the internet, but it is an interesting story. Be that as it may, twenty (20) kilometers of highway is still quite a pain. Driving to the coast costs me over 4 hours, and it is not even 200 kilometers. According to the Centre for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo the car-accident rate in Bosnia is 10 times higher then in the rest of Europe.
All eccentric explanations aside, that for me is an argument enough to do something about the roadconditions.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Law a la carte

Last week, forty men, suspected of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide started a hungerstrike. They are all in detention, and are awaiting trial, or are currently being tried.

They are on strike, because they want a different criminal law to be applied for them- they want the Criminal Code to be used that was in force in 1992 (which was the SFRY code) instead of the Criminal Code that was introduced in BiH in 2003. They claim that the SFRY Code is more lenient for them, and that it therefore should be the one used in their cases.

More lenient? Mmm. Depends on how one looks upon it. Nowadays the death penalty is abolished in BiH; however, in 1992 capital punishment was not abolished yet. So more lenient? Yes, maybe true. But only once some of the articles in it are bend a bit, and you disregard the deathpenalty. Because personally I find it hard to regard the
death penalty as more lenient then a prison sentence.


Friday, January 12, 2007

Weather update

Weather update: it looks like spring has started here. It is rediculous. And annoying- no more skiing!! But apparently it is the same anywhere in Europe. According to Nenad the Neighbour it is going to snow in March, and March will be really cold. I have no clue where he gets his intel from, but he is completely positive about it. I am impressed with his foresight. Might ask him for the winning lottery numbers- with a little luck he knows them too.

On a less lighter note: yesterday the trial against the other Milosevic has started at the ICTY in The Hague. For 15 months he was the one who commanded the Bosnian Serb army corps that besieged Sarajevo.

By the way, and I am swallowing my pride here, I got some feedback on the previous blog (although I did not get any tips for aa bright and shining future). However, the 'feedbackers' did not click on the links that I put in the blog. And without reading the links, the joke of that blog is lost. So click 'em, gddmnt!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A bright and shining future

Un jetzt? Now what? What to do? And where? Someone told me that being in Sarajevo has become a lifestyle, more than just work. Maybe true. Lifestyles are hard to change, and admittably, I find it hard to figure out what to do when I leave here.

I have been thinking of becoming a journalist, because I really like to write. The thought of becoming a soldier has crossed my mind, as well as the thought of becoming a PhD Scholar. I still find politics appealing, but I think I am still a bit too young.

Ok, so preferably
all of the above, and even more. Like diplomat and lawyer.

My dad, the one who always asks about the weather, once told me that life is too short to do everything you want to do, but at least you should try. And, by Jove, he is right. Because I want it all, and now. But how? If anyone has useful tips, please send them to me. I will be in debt forever.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Big Brother

Ladies and gentlemen, we got 'em!
Bosnia and Herzegovina have a new prime minister, Mr. Nikola Spiric, a Serb, as all media do not not fail to mention.

A little over three months after the elections, BiH has a new government, so it seems at least. Of course, everything still has to be agreed upon, and the positions within the government still have to be divided, but it seems like the coalition talks have ended. The new minister of Foreign Affairs is from a Bosnian Muslim party. He is jewish, though. Things that sound like a paradox in so many countries, are non here.

So, I can rest assured, knowing that this country will be governed again- my monitoring of the monitors during the elections was useful and succesful. Let's hope and pray that the coalition talks in Holland will be as fruitful.

Anyway, happy Orthodox Christmas. Because that's what it is today according to the Julian calendar.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

On the run

Just some headlines in the Bosnia Daily:
"Del Ponte once again requests from Belgrade to Deliver Mladic" (March 30, 2006); "Mladic arrest over the Holidays?" (April 25, 2006); "Hunt for Mladic officially starts" (!)(July 26 2006); "Mladic's Mistery" (August 22, 2006); "Del Ponte dissatisfied with Serbia's effort to capture Mladic" (October 4, 2006); "Mladic main obstacle for Western Balkans on the road to PfP" (November 6, 2006); "Trial reveals details of Mladic's Belgrade "Odyssey"" (December 27, 2006); "Karadzic is not only Serbian problem" (January 4, 2007).

Those are headlines from random editions of the Bosnian Daily- editions that I kept for all kind of articles that I find interesting. The two most wanted men of Europe, are still a source of news here, every day. According to Carla del Ponte it is unbelievable that those men are still not found. And I can understand why. Apparently intelligence sources know of their whereabouts, and even know when they are travelling where. Whether this is true, I do not know, but if so, that is disturbing (By the way: there is a price on the head of those men- 5 million dollars for each. There have been bounty hunters, and there are some blogs solely dedicated to it).

Anyway, the ICTY has not given up hope that the men will be caught. Yesterday the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes said that if Karadzic and Mladic were caught before 2010, "the ICTY would remain open to try them". And that is good. At least some victims of the war will be spared of a farce like the Saddam Hussein trail.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tempus fugit

Time flies. Although i have been here just for 2,5 years, I have lived in Sarajevo in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007. Written like that, it seemslike a very, very long time. Still, it feels like a heartbeat. However, this is the last year- I will not be here in 2008. On the 31st of January I will leave the Court. What then? Good question.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Rythm of life, in pictures

A sample of the pictures taken on Bajram. I did not put the actual killing in the blog. However, the pictures are not for the weak of heart.
Elias Fels took one of the pictures. I took the other one.


The rythmn of life

Tomorrow is the last day of Kurban Bajram. In the Arabic world it is know as Eid ul-Ahda. People in Holland call it Offerfeest, which means something as Sacrifice Holiday. It is a religious Muslim Holiday, celebrated 70 days after the end of Ramadan. The holiday commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ismael to God. For those who do not know the bible, don't worry: he ended up not sacrificing his son, because Abraham's willingness to do so, convinced God of Abraham's love for him. Instead of letting Abraham kill his son, he sent an animal to him, to kill and give to God. For those who do know the bible: indeed, the son celebrated at Eid is Ismael, and not Isaac, as is written in the Old Testament used by Jews and Christians. As is seen in so many situations in the Middle East now-a-days, there were different reports of the same event during the biblical times too....

On the first day of Kurban Bajram it is custom in Bosnia to slaughter a sheep, in remembrance of what happened thousands of years ago. My memory about this slaughtering goes back only one year ago. Last year during Bajram I had lunch at my favorite Bosnian restaurant called 'Kod Biban'. kod Biban is situated near Mount Trebevic, in the outskirts of town, and is overlooking Sarajevo. It was also the scene of the slaughter of the lambs, and since I remembered this, I went there with Elias Fels and 3 other friends. Rational behind this: know what you eat. In the days before Bajram we had seen sheep being sold all over town, and being transported on the backseats of Mercedes cars. This first day of the four days of Bajram, we saw it all, from the sheep being taken out of their shed, to the actual killing, to the stripping of their skin and the removal of their intestines, to the cutting the meat up to sheep/ lamb chops. After watching this for about an hour, we had lunch at Kod Biban. Basically, that day we were the impersonation of the food chain.

I have to say that the it surprised me that the butchering went so quick. It was obvious that the animals hardly suffered- there was simply not enough time for hem to do so. A lot of organisations have voiced their concerns about halal and kosher butchering. After seeing how it goes in practice, I share their opinion even less.

On the first day of Bajram, Saddam Hussein was hanged. My brother called me to tell it. As said, Bajram is in Dutch called Sacrifice Holiday. Colloquially it is called Butcher Holiday too. Thinking about the situation in Iraq, I am not sure which of the two names was more appropriate that day. Oh, irony.

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