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Consultative meetings with CSOs in Vojvodina

July 15, 2014


Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia organized three consultative meetings with CSOs in Vojvodina over the past two weeks. The meeting in Subotica of 7 July 2014 at the Open University addressed extremism vs. political pluralism in the multiethnic province of Vojvodina. Politicologist Pavel Domonji spoke about various forms of extremism, such as racism, nationalism, homophobia, antifeminism, etc, promoted by some 20-30 right-wing extremist organizations in today’s Serbia. He also pointed out the deficient mechanisms of control against extremist groups on the one hand, and hate crimes and hate speech on the other. Mr. Domonji specifically referred to right-wing extremists’ attitude towards Vojvodina and their perception of it an “artificial creation” of the communist era. Over the ensuing discussion the participants focused on the youth and their disturbingly growing interest in extremist groups and ideologies. It is against the backdrop of high unemployment and grim cultural realities that young people in Serbia, they concluded, are trying to find a safe haven for themselves: unfortunately, they are turning to extremist groups and ideologies. The media, the judiciary and CSO could play a major role in curbing such adverse phenomena.

The meeting in Pancevo was organized on 10 July 2014 at the Pancevo Cultural Center. It discussed the “hookup” between religion and extremist ideologies, the topic itself being introduced by sociologist of religion Srdjan Barisic. Mr. Barisic defined Serbia as the country stuck in the transition and unsystematic, ad hoc reforms. He specifically referred to the Serb Orthodox Church and its influence, and the stands it practically shared with extremist groups – for example, its stands on Kosovo and EU integration. Participants spoke about cases of extremism in Pancevo and Vojvodina, and discussed the position of vulnerable groups in their community.

The Novi Sad meeting was organized on 18 July 2014 in the premises of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina. This final consultative meeting with NGOs was focused on historical revisionism and right-wing extremist organizations. Historian Milivoj Beslin explained that historical revisionism was only a logical outcome of extremist ideologies. He spoke about various extremist movements throughout history, the leaders of which have been glorified till the very day and whose legacy still strongly influenced the supporters of extremist ideologies. Participants discussed the manner in which the history of Serbia and Yugoslavia were being interpreted, concluding that nationalism, as practically the only ideology, was crucial for historical distortions. The education system must be thoroughly reformed, said the participants, so as to empower the young for critical thinking about major topics such as dealing with the past and contemporary history of Serbia.

All consultative meetings were meant to contribute to the development of a civil society platform for monitoring the cases of hate speech and hate crimes. Participating CSOs were invited to join the platform and thus help to curb today’s extremist ideologies.














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