The death of 7-month-old Belmina Ibrišević is uniting citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina in demanding action from the country's politicians.
By Bedrana Kaletović for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 24/10/13
The mock tomb honouring Belmina Ibrišević stands across from parliament in Sarajevo. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]
The death of a 7-month-old girl who was delayed in traveling to Germany for a bone-marrow transplant because Bosnian authorities were not able to assign her an identification number is galvanising calls for reform of the country's fractured government.
Protesters erected a mock tomb in front of parliament as a memorial for Belmina Ibrišević, who died October 15th in a German clinic. Her plight attracted global attention and large protests in June when she was blocked from leaving the country because the law that required identification numbers for infants expired earlier this year, leaving thousands of infants undocumented for months.
Although the government finally adopted the law in July and issued the numbers, it was too late for Belmina.
"Her life's battle showed us life's path: the way in which we have to seek responsibility from politicians in BiH," said Almerisa Osmanovic, a mother and participant in the June protest.
Belmina was the second child whose death was linked to the political row. Berina Hamidovic died in a Serbian clinic in June, and was also delayed in receiving a passport.
Members of parliament have refused to comment to the media.
"I'm not surprised that politicians are silent. They participated in the killing of Belmina and other sick children, and therefore they should be judged solely by secular laws," Katarina Sarajka Durakovic, a Sarajevo resident, told SETimes.
The controversy is the latest for the inefficient BiH government hierarchy that has been criticised by the Sarajevo-based Centre for Civil Initiatives as the most expensive public administration in Europe. It is comprised of 13 governments that employ 180 ministers, 600 MPs and spend 500,000 euros per hour. Even after borrowing from the IMF, the government struggles to pay even its own administrative expenses and salaries and has little money to provide basic services.
The government also was criticised by the EU last week, which noted in a progress report that BiH is the only country in the region that is regressing on its accession path. It has failed to harmonise its constitution with the 2009 European Charter on Human Rights to end discrimination of minorities who cannot run for high-level offices.
Participants in the June protests had hope that the movement would result in significant changes in the political system.
"These protests had more courage and emotional commitment. It looks like a real people's movement can wake up this society, which has been held hostage by the political elite for a long time," Darko Brkan, one of the organisers of the summer protest, told SETimes.
The idea has been supported by numerous citizens in BiH, the diaspora and citizens around the world. BiH citizens were particularly touched by emotional messages of public figures from countries in the region including Serbian actors Branislav Lecic, Nikola Kojo and Sergej Trifunovic, politician Cedomir Jovanovic and many celebrities from Croatia.
"You can be stone-hearted, but you cannot deny the problem of sick babies around you. Support from our neighbours evokes a feeling that we are still human beings who sympathise with the problem of others around us," Ivica Dropic, an NGO activist and protest participant, told SETimes.
What action can citizens in BiH take to make their voices heard by politicians? Tell us your thoughts.