Serbian nationalist Vuk Jeremic stinks up the UN with a “New Year’s” self-celebration, dragging Secretary Ban Ki-Moon through Serbia’s perverse patriotic mud and they wonder why Serbia is a pariah state
Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly ( a former foreign minister), an unmitigated Serb nationalist, arranged for the playing of a sordid Serbian military martial song “March Across the Drina” at an official UN General Assembly New Year’s celebration recently, provoking anger and outrage among Bosnian survivors of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.
The Stop Genocide Denial Campaign demanded an apology from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
In an overtly nationalistic play, Jeremic apparently manipulated the enthusiastic participation of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during a January 14th ceremony, duping him and many others, who may not have known of how the World War I wartime song was used as fear provoking propaganda during Serbian invasions of Eastern Bosnian towns and villages during the more recent 1990 Balkan Wars. It was perversely and falsely referred to as a “march of peace” by an unknown speaker before the Belgrade based Viva Vox choir performed it to a delighted UN audience.
Martin Nesirky, the Secretary General’s spokesperson issued a statement of regret yesterday (diplomatic parlance for an apology) that was published in the Huffington Post:
Martin Nesirky said that “the United Nations was aware that some people were offended by the song “March to the Drina,” sung in the General Assembly hall Monday night. Ban afterward stood at the podium alongside Vuk Jeremic, the former Serbian foreign minister and current assembly president, for a photo with the performers, the Belgrade vocal group Viva Vox.
Ban “expressed sincere regret that people were offended by this song,” Nesirky said, adding that the U.N. chief “obviously was not aware what the song was about or the use that has been made of it in the past.”
The Stop Genocide Denial Campaign, organized by Refik Hodzic, director of communications at the International Center for Transitional Justice, demanded “a public apology to all the victims of war crimes in BiH committed in the name of Serbian nationalism and remove the video containing the song from the official UN page.”
The campaign likely generated a number of complaints, urging offended parties to send a letter of complaint to the Secretary General and his immediate staff.
The video remains on Jeremic’s home page today and the fairly quick apology issued by Nesirky was for the playing of a nationalistic song, not an apology to Bosnians for the wartime aggression carried out against them by Serbia.
The most recent history of Serbian exploitation of March on the Drina River, is reported in a rather macabre human rights report, issued in the State Department’s Seventh Report on War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia, submitted to the UN Security Council in 1993. According to the report, the March on the Drina was perversely played when women and their daughters were selected to be raped by Serbia militia: “The woman knew the rapes would begin when ‘Mars na Drinu (March on the Drina)’ was played over the loudspeaker of the main mosque. While ‘Mars na Drinu’ was playing, the women were ordered to strip and soldiers entered the homes taking the ones they wanted. The age of women taken ranged from 12 to 60. Frequently the soldiers would seek out mother and daughter combinations. Many of the women were severely beaten during the rapes.”
The authoritative Visegrad Genocide Memories blog, reviews the origin of the “March on the Drina” military martial music and song:
[the] Serb patriotic song composed by Stanislav Binicki during World War One after the Battle of Cer. This composition was adopted by the Nazi-collaborate Yugoslav Royalist Army popularly known as Chetniks during the Second War War. It was played during attacks on Bosniak towns in Eastern Bosnia during the genocide from 1941-1945. During the Communist rule in Yugoslavia, The March on the Drina was banned since it glorified Serb Nationalism and genocide. A film with the same title produced in 1963 was also banned. English translation follows:
To battle, go forth you heroes,
Go on and don’t regret living your lives
May the Cer see the front, may the Cer hear the guns
and the river Drina’s glory, courage!
And the heroic hand of the father and sons!
Sing, sing, Drina – of cold water,
Remember, and tell of the ones that fell,
Remember the brave front,
Which full of fire, mighty force
Expelled the invaders from our dear river!
Sing, sing, Drina, tell the generations,
How we bravely fought,
The front sang, the battle was fought
Near cold water
Blood was flowing,
Blood was streaming:
By the Drina was freedom!
Does this sound like a “march of peace?” When does Serbian impunity stop? Jeremic and his brethren should hang their heads in shame. They should repudiate their history of genocide, rape and war crimes. As long as Serbia is governed and led by genocide denying leaders and cling to empty and destructive nationalism, they remain outside the community of nations. Serbia is a pariah state of war criminals drowning in the blood of their victims and are in fact, choking the future potential of their people and future generations. For the moment, shame is the least of their problems.
The New Civil Rights Movement blog has repeatedly reported on Serbia’s pattern of anti-LGBT violence and intolerance from these pages. Our readers must understand that a nationalistic and unrepentant state like Serbia, will continue to define anyone who exists outside the political power’s elite definition of acceptability, as “the other”–to be driven from society, from within their borders or to a very limited existence, frozen, in a zone of self imposed silence. In this contemporary instance of continued nationalism, the history of Serbia’s recent role in a series of genocidal wars bears necessary understanding for its current stance and intolerance toward Bosniaks, LGBT, Roma and Sinti peoples, as well as Albanians.
For more information on the Stop Genocide Denial Campaign’s efforts to remove the Jeremic video visit its Facebook page here. Campaign participants have expanded their efforts to urge the UN Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Mirsada Čolaković and U.S Ambassador Susan Rice to pressure the UN to removed the Jeremic video from the UN General Assembly’s website.
Image courtesy of the Stop Genocide Denial campaign.
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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