Has Arab Spring Arrived In Bosnia? Country Witnesses Worst Civil Unrest Since A 1992-95 War

Fatimah Mazhar
While protests in Ukraine and Thailand are still ongoing, another country is facing the worst political crisis in decades.

While protests in Ukraine and Thailand are still ongoing, another country is facing the worst political crisis in decades.

Demonstratorsacross Bosnia in Southeastern Europe set fire to government buildings and fought with riot police as violent protests broke out last week over unemployment and widespread corruption, marking the worst civil unrest in the country since the Bosnian war (1992-95).

Owing to the magnitude of the severity of the situation, several news sources, including BBC and the New York Times, and Al-Jazeera used the terms “Bosnian Spring” and “Balkan Spring” when describing the riots, referring to the events that unfolded during the Arab Spring.

As a result of days of protests by thousands of people, the Prime Minister Hamdija Lipova?a of the Una-Sana Canton – a local Bosnian federation – officially resigned on Monday.

He was one of the most prominent politicians accused of corruption by the civilians.

"I think this is a genuine Bosnian spring. We have nothing to lose. There will be more and more of us in the streets, there are around 550,000 unemployed people in Bosnia," Almir Arnaut, an unemployed economist and activist from Tuzla told Reuters.

Read More: Protesters Blockade Bosnian Parliament Over ID Law


The following events preceded the widespread unrest in Bosnia:

Unemployment rates:

The International Labor Organization (ILO) stated in November last year that the overall unemployment rate in 2012 reached 28 per cent, while the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years of age) was more than double the overall unemployment, at 63.1 per cent.

Corrupt government officials and freedom of speech:

Corrupt elected officials are facing investigations as well as politicians are often accused of pressurizing journalists, and media outlets to be aligned with political parties.

The Free Media Helpline, a program run by the Bosnia and Herzegovina Journalists’ Association, recorded 39 violations of journalists’ rights between January 1 and September 10, 2012, and noted an increase since 2011 in threats and pressure by politicians against journalists,” non-profit organization Freedom House reported.


Most of the population of Tuzla was employed by the four former state-owned companies, which included furniture and washing powder manufacturers. After their privatization, the owners instead of investing in the companies and making them profitable, sold the assets and stopped paying workers. They later filed for bankruptcy between 2000 and 2008 which ultimately led to public disconcert.

Police Brutality:

Moreover, the reactionary force used by the riot police against the protesters added to people’s rage and anger. In Sarajevo, police officers fired rubber bullets at several thousand protesters who set fire to the headquarters of the cantonal government and to a section of the country's presidency building, Reuters reported.

The Trigger:

The first rallies were carried out in the town of Tuzla – the industrial heart of the north – on February 4 where several factories halted production after being privatized, leaving hundreds of workers without jobs.  

Bosnia Protests

"This is so sad," a woman was quoted as saying as she watched a government building caught in flame which was set on fire by protesters on Friday.

"It took four years of war to destroy it and vandals now burned it in one day. This is just as in 1992."

The Protests:

Around 150 people were injured in the first three days of the unrest that sparked on Tuesday night.

Bosnia Protests

Bosnia Protests

Bosnia Protests

Bosnia Protests

Bosnia Protests