This is a special edition of MEME, dedicated to the unfolding situation in Serbia. What follows is the original announcement, and you can read on the ground bulletins of the situation, updated as people send in new information.
Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 12:36:57 -0500 From: "David S. Bennahum"Read more email from Novica, Kali, and other members of the Sezampro BBS in Belgrade.
Subject: MEME bulletin. Urgent. To: Multiple recipients of list MEME MEME BULLETIN -- MEME BULLETIN FREEDOM FROM FEAR, FREEDOM FROM HARM AN URGENT PLEA FROM THE PEOPLE OF SERBIA This is a special edition of MEME. Please pass it on everywhere. I spent five days in Belgrade, Serbia, last week, where I witnessed the peaceful self-organization of 200,000 people protesting daily against the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, the President of rump Yugoslavia, and the man most responsible for the Balkan war of 1991-95. Every day, for 38 days now, thousands of people, mostly citizens of the capital city Belgrade, have gathered to agitate for the right we in the United States, and other democratic nations, take for granted -- the right to vote, and elect a government of their choice, by the people for the people. What precipitated this process of civil disobedience was the regime's annulment on November 17 of democratic elections which gave the opposition control of many municipalities, including the capital Belgrade, and Serbia's second-largest city Nis. Stung by this overwhelming defeat, the governing coalition -- a loose confederation of former socialists, and organized-crime figures who have made billions during the war years in former Yugoslavia -- imagined they could behave in a vacuum and simply annulled the election results. The remarkable, and surprising consequence has been the coalescing of an opposition, which marches daily, calling for the return of the election results and a movement towards civic democracy. On Christmas Eve, Milosevic, perhaps sensing the power of the people, called out the police and for the first time the protesters are being beaten. What had been a joyous daily ritual of everyday people agitating for the right to vote has turned into a dangerous situation. One protester died Tuesday night, another was shot in the head and critically wounded. Today, Saturday, is the funeral of the man, Predrag Starcevic, 39, who died from a severe beating. 10,000 people attended the funeral in Belgrade, according the Associated Press. Last night plainclothes police wandered the streets of Belgrade and beat people. During the week I spent I Belgrade, I stayed with Novica Milic, and his wife Sasha; Novica is an editor at Rec, or "Word", the leading literary magazine in Serbia, and his wife is a professor of Spanish at the University of Belgrade. Sasha's elderly parents are now injured, having been beaten by police (her mother is in the hospital waiting for a leg operation). When I last saw Novica, he was talking about creating the Serbian equivalent of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, or the Center for Democracy and Technology. Communications technologies have been skillfully used by the democratic opposition to get world attention, and self-organize. Novica rightfully believes that freedom of communication is an essential right, and was contemplating creating a structure of agitate for that right. Now the most basic freedom -- freedom from violence -- is at stake -- and this will have to come first for now. There is little many of us can do to stop these beatings, safely ensconced in our home countries, enjoying the arrival of the new year, and a peaceful holiday. But I do know how incredibly important it is for the people of Serbia opposing the regime to feel that they are not alone, that the world cares, that some are watching and will not forget. I urge you to send letters of support to Novica, who is a member of SezamPro, a local BBS in Belgrade (http://www.sezampro.yu) with thousands of users, almost all of whom support the opposition. He will make sure your messages of support are seen and read. Likewise, you can write Kali, another SezamPro user, who was severly beaten by police and in the hospital right now. I met Kali during one of the street protests last week, and never imagined this would happen to her. I never imagined any of this would happen. Novica's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org Kali's email address is: Kali@SezamPro.yu Those whishing to follow the trail of the 1996 Protests online should visit http://eurasianews.com/erc/serbopp1.htm This page will connect you to internal Serbian sites, and mirror sites with extensive information on how the people of Serbia finally said enough is enough. I will let Novica have the last word. Below is an e-mail he sent me this morning, which was so difficult to read: Date: Sat, 28 Dec 1996 01:56:22 +0100 From: Novica Milic Organization: Institute for Literature, Belgrade To: "David S. Bennahum" CC: Subject: Belgrade - 27. december Dear David & other friends: Both my vife's mother and father were injured by the police on the 24th of Dec. on demonstration - her mother is in the hospital and waits for the leg operation. This evening Kali (@SezamPro.yu, the girl with black hair, Julian spoke to her during one of the street marches, I remember) was badly baeten by the police; she is in the hospital now. There were a lot of beaten people tonight - all AFTER the today demonstrations, when they started to go back home. They were attacked either by the police itself or by the groops of hooligans who were under the clear police protection. Especially the journalist (and cameramen) were aimed by the police attacks (like the reporters from Russian NTV, Austrian ORF, Associate Press, Reuter). Two (at least) perasons from the Organizing Comittee of Student Protest '96 were also beaten tonight. We are at the edge of civil war in Serbia. The Belgrade is a kind of a besieged city. It is a sort of the unofficial martial low situation. Some 20,000 policemen have been brought into the town in the last 2-3 days. The regime media (TV, radio, newspapers) keep producing the worst propaganda against the citizens ("traitors of the people", "foreign agents", "the fifth column" and the like). What will happen in the next days, no one can tell at the moment. However, we will continue with our protests. Tomorrow is the funeral of the men who was killed 3 days ago during the demos. You can help by spreading the infos of what's going on here. Yrs, Novim@sezampro.yu
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