Wars start in the spring …

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about mobilization, and threats of war

"This spring we must have time to see the cherries trees and lime trees blossom, if we do not than it is the end because we must not allow the killings and shooting to go on, not here and not in Montenegro. The hands must be put down and the hollowing reduced to a normal level…" writes these days Borka Pavicevic, theatre director, coordinator of the Center for Cultural Decontamination/Denazification a haven for all of us, who are the Others, who are different in this city, a place where we can find a space for diversity all these years. These moving words have been written by Borka an antiwar activist and we share her feelings. Every spring, an even more moving badge comes to my mind - the one, our radio B92 launched way back in 1992 "It is spring and I live in Serbia… (now after it was overtaken by the regime the radio is called B2/92)"

Words similar to Borka's are being said these days by women all over Serbia, the other Serbia. For the last ten days, they call us more than they usually do repeating over and over again "We can not go on… I will not allow them to take my son, my husband away…" Yesterday an activist from Leskovac (southern Serbia) told me; "I tore up the draft call that the postman brought for my husband…" and another women from another city in Serbia said "I did not want to accept the draft call, let my son go to jail, let him go to ten years of jail, I will not allow him you go to the front…"

Each spring the fear rises. As it was the case in Troy, as Kasandra spoke through the mouth of Krista Wolf: "With the beginning of spring, war broke out…" These last years, we have been living in constant expectations of immanent war and the periods of "peace" or post peace are so short that they are always transformed into preparations for a new war. We have learned to recognize the signs and words of war, we have been listening to them and experiencing them for too long a time. But we dare not voice the word war: "We are afraid every spring …"

SIGNS OF WAR EVERYWHERE: Spring is the time of year when war breaks out on the Balkans. Mobilization is taking place. People talk about it, the newspapers write about it.

As it did last spring, the mobilization started in southeastern Serbia("the south tracks). It is the region which borders with Kosovo and KFOR. In the center of the region, in Nish which is a city where the opposition is in power, people have been talking for ten days "mobilization is taking place". The civil postmen bring them, not the military or police ones. The draft call need not be signed. A man from Nish said: "Some of the postmen told me: "Either you accept the (the draft calls) or I will throw them into your postbox or I will nail them to your door"."

The same thing happened in the previous wars: "The draft calls were usually first brought by the civilian postman, then by the military ones (military police). At the end the police come to take you to war", says a young man from Nish. The mobilization has again started in Leskovac and the whole Jablanicka county. Last spring, 4000 men were taken from this region and sent to the war in Kosovo. When I was in Leskovac, in the last days of February, people spoke about thousands of draft calls, even of 17000 draft calls which will be sent out in the next period. Some of the men who were forcefully mobilized last spring keep repeating: "I will not go to another war or another front, even if the penalty is death"

At the very north of the country in Subotica the draft calls are also being sent out. The party SPO (Serbian Revival Movement) commented; "We pose the question in whose name and for what cause is this being done? Is someone again preparing a new war? We demand that the Military Headquarters of the Yugoslav Army explains to the people why this mobilizations taking place?"

The situation is similar in other parts of Serbia, of different intensity and it seems that it depends on the military area you belong to. It seems now that most draft calls are being sent in the area of the Third Army, as was the case last spring. The tension in Montenegro started in February when a small number of deserters were arrested. (It is known the Montenegrin Parliament passed the amnesty law in November 1999). While I was in Podgorica, at the beginning of February, many people said that more extensive arrests of Montenegrin deserters would provoke serious conflicts between the Yugoslav Army and the Montenegrin police. For the time being, the army is keeping the tension at a medium intensity level, but the tension is present everywhere. Judging by what the people say and what the newspapers write, it seems that the mobilization is not taking place there. The army is obviously aware that there would not be any response, that for a long time now the young people from Montenegro would not dream of proving their patriotism in such a way; deserting from the Army of Yugoslavia in Montenegro is socially acceptable and such acts are supported by all, except by pro Serbian patriotic parties.

"REGULAR ARMY MANEUVERS" As in all the previous years (naturally up to the military intervention by NATO) the regime in Serbia claimed that "Serbia was not in war", the military authorities always called mobilization "regular military activities and drills". The military sources claim "that mobilization is not taking place, but just the usual peace-time calls for military maneuvers are being sent to just a small number of men in the regular formations of the Yugoslav army for the exercise drills". Of course such cynicism provokes contempt in people. Military sources are specially angry at the civil (opposition) authorities in Nish for publicly warning that mobilizations is taking place. One officer of the Yugoslav army from the 3rd Army who wanted to remain anonymous, explained the situation to the daily newspaper Danas (1. 03. 2000) "If mobilization was taking place or a state of emergency was proclaimed, people would be walking around Nish in camouflage uniforms and with pistols. The person who sees in the mobilization of one man as the mobilization of a hundred probably has a guilty conscience. The Yugoslav Army is not responsible for those who are afraid, but some other professional institutions are". Probably people who are experts in patriotism, since at the Congress of the ruling party SPS, held in February 2000, the division of people in this country into two categories was promoted: the patriots and the traitors. The later, whose numbers are increasing, are threatened by sanctions and penalties. General V. Lazarevic, the commander of the 3rd Army warned on the 3rd of March 2000 that "the 3rd Army will take legal action against all those who spread lies and provoke anxiety in the people. Action will be taken against individuals, newspapers and journalists who spread such information. No mobilization is taking place". As it did last spring, the military authorities claim that the army will take the "March class of soldiers, draftees" and thinks it will thus cover up the mobilization.

Voices of resistance are rising against one more mobilization. Nenad Canak, the president of the Social-Democrat League, well know since 91 for his antiwar and anti nationalistic stands and actions, encouraged many young men with his statements. On the 2nd March 200, he called on the draftees not to report for mobilization.

"When I say this, it turns out that I do not want to obey the laws of this country. However, I call upon the citizens not to obey Milosevic's laws. Simply, there are laws which can not be obeyed. The Yugoslav army did not defend anybody. There are only corrupt generals. When I say this I do not have in mind all those poor young men whose duty it is to go to the army". In the beginning of March, in one day during a protest actions in Novi Sad 60 activists of the Social-Democrat League have been detained by the police.

At one of the meetings of the democratic opposition held in Belgrade at the beginning of March an encouraging message was heard (and it was surprising, coming from an ineffective opposition in Serbia): "We do not want rifles we want elections; we want common sense.

24TH OF MARCH IS APPROACHING: Will there be another military intervention? Will we be bombed again? When will we be bombed? Maybe we will not be bombed. These are the questions people ask themselves and others, comfort themselves and others.

People are just waiting for this month of March to pass and the anniversary of the bombing, the 24th of March to pass. This regime has a pathological affinity to provoking conflicts so it can just stay in power. There have been so may incidents in a short time, there is such a production of events that it is difficult to absorb them all. The unsolved murder of a well known public figure and high government official (Pavle Bulatovic, Minister of Defense, killed in February); permanent arrests and beating up of students from the movement "Resistance"; threats and beating up of journalists; the continuos financial penalizing "of the disobedient" daily newspapers and TV stations; the threats and harassment of independent electronic media; the appearance of new "pirate" media; the satanization of the opposition, the constant talk of the immanent return of the "Serbian rule over Kosovo"; the closing down of the air space and airports from time to time and the cut off of all trade with Montenegro; the allocation of military and police forces in the south of Serbia., which is the region we have been very active in since last summer and have made many connection with the people there.

Twenty days ago, when the production of events had a lower intensity, and we were in Novi Pazar where we held a workshop on multiculturalism and inter-cultural cooperation, we "decided" (the Women in Black from Belgrade and the women from Sandjak the south of Serbia) that our pacifist song be an old folk song from Vranje "What I would like to do" in which the young man is wooing Bozana with the words of the song "to sing and riffles to throw away…" We wanted to show that in the past of the Balkans there were traces of women's solidarity with the others, who were different, in this case with men who did not want to go to war…. I keep thing about that melodious, folk song which the nationalist did not contaminate because the words do not fit into their policy of hatred towards the others.

So there are more threats, more fears hat the answer to violence could be even greater violence. "For all of us in the Balkans that would be a terrible tragedy. For the western allies that would be just one more interference in a regional conflict. So it is much better to prevent the conflicts than to later deal with the consequences" says an anti war activist from Podgorica, Srdjan Darmanovic. We the anti war activists know the feeling very well, we are tired of healing the wounds of war and are eager to work on the prevention of war and not its consequences.

(The material used was taken from : the daily newspaper "Danas", weekly "Vreme" from Belgrade, "Vijesti" from Podgorica, the statements of people, activists).

Stasa Zajovic (Women in Black)

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