Multiethnic couples reflect Bosnia’s growing diversity

Updated 07 April 2013
0

Multiethnic couples reflect Bosnia’s growing diversity

SARAJEVO: Sandra Zaimovic, a Catholic Bosnian Croat and her husband Rusmir, a Bosnian Muslim, are looking forward to celebrating both Eid and Christmas with their new baby this year.
Couples of different ethnicity like the Zaimovics were a rarity in the years following the 1992-1995 war which divided Bosnia along ethnic lines, but today they are slowly reappearing, reflecting the country’s growing diversity.
“It is an advantage for children to grow up in two cultures and I am very happy that, while I am a Catholic, my last name is Muslim,” says Sandra, a 32-year-old charity worker.
Rusmir and Sandra, herself a child of a mixed marriage between a Bosnian Croat mother and Serb father, met in 2003 at a friend’s party.
They were married two years later, one of the rare ethnically mixed marriages in Bosnia to take place since the war.
“Ours is a marriage of love — we have never asked any questions about our ethnicity or our faith,” says 33-year-old computer engineer Rusmir Zaimovic.
Their families had no objections, but many others have queried their relationship.
“I often meet people who ask me how my mother has reacted, how the two of us manage everything. Remarks like that remind me where we live,” says Sandra.
Over the years, however, Sandra and Rusmir have made a tight network of friends, many of whom are also ethnically mixed couples, or those who find no fault with their life choices.
The former Yugoslav republic was once a shining example of diversity, but Bosnian society was torn apart during the war that pitted its three main ethnic communities — Serbs, Croats, and Muslims — against each other.
Many mixed couples were unable to resist the pressures of the time and either split up or left the country.
Most have never returned.
Today the country has a population of just 3.8 million, of which 40 percent are Muslim, 31 percent Serb (mainly Orthodox Christian) and 10 percent Bosnian Croat.
Over two million people were forced from their homes during the war, in which 100,000 died.
In 1992, before war broke out, nearly 13 percent of all married couples in Bosnia were multiethnic, but today they number just four percent.
While there are no reliable statistics for the years immediately following the war, the current figure is likely to be an increase on the late 1990s and early 2000s, when ethnic divisions remained deeply entrenched.
The campaign of “ethnic cleansing” led by Bosnian Serbs against Bosnian Muslims, including the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys — designated as genocide by two international courts — destroyed any veneer of peaceful coexistence between communities.
The ethnologist Ugo Vlaisavljevic confirms that the psychological scars of the war run deep. “As a consequence of the horrors of war that we experienced in the 1990s a deep distrust between the people emerged... and of course this has had a considerable impact on people’s personal lives.”
Neda Perisic, an anthropologist, points out that couples like the Zaimovics face more than societal pressure, highlighting the institutional discrimination inherent in the political system imposed by the 1995 peace accord.
“In Bosnia, there are no individual, but only collective rights,” she says, explaining that almost all jobs in public administration or state-controlled companies are reserved for members of the three so-called constituent communities.
According to Bosnia’s constitution, the country is made up of three constituent peoples: Muslims, Serbs and Croats — and ‘others’, a category which encompasses all other ethnic groups living in the country.
In a system based on the rights given to each of the three main ethnic groups, those who are considered to be ‘other’ face fewer opportunities, she warns, continuing “in a system like this, children from mixed marriages are marginalized.”
As children of mixed ethnicity are classified as ‘other’, Perisic says that as adults they will have little chance of finding work in the public sector, which is by far the largest employer in the country.

Given that Bosnia currently struggles with unemployment of over 40 percent, this is a significant handicap.
Nearly a generation may have passed since the war but prejudices persist.


Army splits with West Point grad who touted communist revolt

In this May 2016 photo provided by Spenser Rapone, Rapone displays a shirt bearing the image of socialist icon Che Guevara under his uniform, after graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. (AP)
Updated 20 June 2018
0

Army splits with West Point grad who touted communist revolt

  • “I would encourage all soldiers who have a conscience to lay down their arms and join me and so many others who are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism and join us in a revolutionary movement”
  • Less than a year after Rapone’s images drew a firestorm of vitriol and even death threats, the second lieutenant who became known as the “commie cadet” is officially out of the US Army with an other-than-honorable discharge

WATERTOWN, New York: The images Spenser Rapone posted on Twitter from his West Point graduation were intentionally shocking: In one, the cadet opens his dress uniform to expose a T-shirt with a blood-red image of socialist icon Che Guevara. In another, he raises his fist and flips his cap to reveal the message: “Communism will win.”
Less than a year after Rapone’s images drew a firestorm of vitriol and even death threats, the second lieutenant who became known as the “commie cadet” is officially out of the US Army with an other-than-honorable discharge.
Top brass at Fort Drum accepted Rapone’s resignation Monday after an earlier reprimand for “conduct unbecoming of an officer.” Rapone said an investigation found he went online to advocate for a socialist revolution and disparage high-ranking officers. Officially, the Army said in a statement only that it conducted a full investigation and “appropriate action was taken.”
An unrepentant Rapone summed up the fallout in yet another tweet Monday that showed him extending a middle finger at a sign at the entrance to Fort Drum, accompanied by the words, “One final salute.”
“I consider myself a revolutionary socialist,” the 26-year-old Rapone told The Associated Press. “I would encourage all soldiers who have a conscience to lay down their arms and join me and so many others who are willing to stop serving the agents of imperialism and join us in a revolutionary movement.”
Rapone said his journey to communism grew out of his experiences as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan before he was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy. And those views only hardened during his studies of history as one of the academy’s “Long Gray Line.”
He explained that he took the offending selfies at his May 2016 West Point graduation ceremony and kept them to himself until last September, when he tweeted them in solidarity with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was taking heat for kneeling for the national anthem to raise awareness of racism. Many other military personnel also tweeted in favor of Kaepernick, although most were supporting free speech, not communism.
West Point released a statement after Rapone posted the photos, saying his actions “in no way reflect the values of the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Army.” And U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, called on the secretary of the Army to remove Rapone from the officer ranks.
“While in uniform, Spenser Rapone advocated for communism and political violence, and expressed support and sympathy for enemies of the United States,” Rubio said Monday, adding “I’m glad to see that they have given him an ‘other-than-honorable’ discharge.”
One of six children growing up in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Rapone said he applied to West Point, which is tuition-free, because he couldn’t afford college. He was nominated out of high school by then-U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire in 2010.
“He was an honors student, an athlete, a model citizen who volunteered in the community,” recalled Altmire, a Democrat. “During the interview, he expressed patriotism and looked just like a top-notch candidate. There were no red flags of any kind.”
But he wasn’t accepted to West Point, so Rapone enlisted in the Army. He was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 and was assigned as an assistant machine gunner in Khost Province.
“We were bullies in one of the poorest countries on Earth,” Rapone said. “We have one of the most technologically advanced militaries of all time and all we were doing is brutalizing and invading and terrorizing a population that had nothing to do with what the United States claimed was a threat.”
Toward the end of his deployment, he learned West Point fulfills a certain quota of enlisted soldiers every year. Despite his growing disillusionment about the military, he applied and got in.
“I was still idealistic,” he said.” I figured maybe I could change things from inside.”
In addition to classic socialist theorists such as Karl Marx, Rapone says he found inspiration in the writings of Stan Goff, a retired Special Forces master sergeant who became a socialist anti-war activist.
Even while still a cadet, Rapone’s online postings alarmed a West Point history professor, who wrote Rapone up, saying his online postings were “red flags that cannot be ignored.” Rapone was disciplined but still allowed to graduate.
Greg Rinckey, an attorney specializing in military law, said it’s rare for an officer out of West Point to receive an other-than-honorable discharge. He added that it’s possible the military academy could seek repayment of the cost of Rapone’s education because he didn’t serve the full five-year service obligation required upon graduation.
“I knew there could be repercussions,” said Rapone, who is scheduled to speak at a socialism conference in Chicago next month. “Of course my military career is dead in the water. On the other hand, many people reached out and showed me support. There are a lot of veterans both active duty and not that feel like I do.”