The Matrix: MEME 2.15


by David S. Bennahum

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" 
Subject:      MEME bulletin. Urgent.
To: Multiple recipients of list MEME 




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

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:               novim@sezampro.yu
Kali's email address is:                          Kali@SezamPro.yu

Those whishing to follow the trail of the 1996 Protests online
should visit

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" 
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

Read more email from Novica, Kali, and other members of the Sezampro BBS in Belgrade.

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