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Serbia to Probe Playing of Anti-Bosniak Song in School

The Education Ministry said it will investigate after videos were published by media showing pupils dancing to a nationalist, anti-Bosnian Muslim song at a school end-of-year celebration in the Serbian city of Novi Sad.

The Vasa Stajic elementary school in Novi Sad. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Micki.

Serbian Education Ministry said on Thursday evening that it will carry out a review at the at the Vasa Stajic School in the northern city of Novi Sad and that “the provincial inspection will take action” to find out who was responsible after children aged 10 and 11 and a teacher were filmed dancing to an anti-Bosniak song.

Education Minister Branko Ruzic decsribed the incident as “an isolated case”, saying in a statement that “it does not reflect the situation and atmosphere in schools in Serbia at all, and I express the expectation that such situations will not happen again”.

News website on Tuesday and Wednesday published two videos from an end-of-year celebration at the school, where children and an adult female could be seen dancing to a folk song called ‘Ne Volim Te, Alija’ (‘I Don’t Like You, Alija’).

The song, recorded during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, refers to Alija Izetbegovic, the wartime leader of the Bosniaks.

In the refrain, which can be heard on the videos, the song says: “I don’t like you Alija, because you’re a balija.” ‘Balija’ is a derogatory term for Bosniaks.

The lyrics also accuse Izetbegovic of having “destroyed a peaceful dream”. It adds: “May the River Drina [on the Serbian border] take hundreds of your mujahideen [Muslim fighters] every day.”

The song, written by Mirko Pajcin, who is known as Baja Mali Knindza, include the names of various places where there was violence during the Bosnian war, many of which were the locations of large-scale war crimes.

The school’s director Zorica Djuric told that “the songs [at the celebration] were chosen and played by the students themselves and most of them were completely appropriate for their age”.

“Unfortunately, this song was released without anyone’s consent, but because of the noise and clamour that the students were creating, none of the teachers could even hear the words,” Djuric said.

She added that “these are teachers with decades of experience in education, many of them are about to retire and none of them has heard of Baja Mali Knindza”.

Serbia’s Commissioner for Protection of Equality, Brankica Jankovic, said on Wednesday that “playing songs at a school event whose lyrics incite national [ethnic] intolerance is worrying and inadmissible, especially because it this concerns children of primary school age and an event held at school”.

“It is devastating if the children chose the controversial song for all the school performances, and it is extremely worrying if someone from the teaching staff helped them in the realisation of such a choice,” Jankovic said in press release.

The Belgrade-based Youth Initiative for Human Rights said that the incident was “just a consequence of the promotion of nationalism at all levels and the atmosphere in which all children in Serbia live, grow up and are educated”.

The NGO added that Djuric’s statement, “in which the responsibility for playing the song is transferred to the students, is devastating and shows the lack of understanding of the importance of establishing preventative educational practices”.

Copyright BIRN 2015

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