By Biljana Pekusic
In a bid to end longstanding “discrimination and state terror against Bosniaks”, the Sandzak and Bosniak national councils called on the Bosniaks not to participate in the current census in Serbia — which runs through October 15th.
The Islamic Community Mufti in Serbia, Muamer Zukorlic, claims that the census number of Muslims [in Serbia] will be falsified, or the number will be less than the actual.
“It happened during all earlier censuses, our community was marginalized and we were denied the rights we have been asking for for decades,” Zukorlic told SETimes.
Sandzak National Council President Dzemail Suljevic said that the boycott and the democratic Bosniak resistance are legitimate since the census is conducted illigally.
“Census papers do not include the Bosniak language and its Latin script,” Suljevic told SETimes.
The head of the EU delegation in Serbia Vincent Degert, however, said that there is no objective reason that any citizen has to not participate in the census, as it is conducted in line with EU standards.
“It is especially important that the citizens of underdeveloped areas participate in the census, so that the EU has a precise data on needed aid and its arrival to the right places,” Degert said.
Enumerators carry papers translated in nine languages of the country’s national minorities, and when entering a household for the census they are obligated to speak their language.
“The census forms are printed in Serbian Cyrillic, which is in accordance with international standards, and the material will be used for computer data reading,” the director of the State Statistical Office Dragan Vukmirovic told SETimes. He added that the census is conducted the same in all regional countries.
Albanian municipalities in southern Serbia — Bujanovac, Medvedja and Presevo are also campaigning for a census boycott.
Bujanovac Mayor Saip Kamberi told SETimes that the census cannot show the actual number of Albanians living in Serbia.
“Many of our people are asylum seekers in European countries, as here they are discriminated when it comes to employment; many temporarily left for Kosovo,” Kamberi says, adding that they will not be listed even though they are an Albanian national minority in Serbia.
This, he says, enables the state to display a small number of Albanians in the area around Presevo and the region.
Serbian Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government Minister Milan Markovic called on ethnic Albanians in southern Serbia to participate.
He said there are no technical reasons for the census boycott as they meet all required standards, and that the enumerators in Albanian communities will be Albanians.
According to the census law, anyone refusing to be listed could be fined from 200 to 500 euros.
“There is no legal grounds for punishing those who refuse to list their household [in the census],” the Sandzak National Council continues to advise Bosniaks.
“Serbia is not asking us Albanians anything, the state would rather that we are not here, that’s why we will not allow the census to enumerate us,” Bujanovac resident Midhat Selmani told SETimes.
Up to 17 members live in each Albanian family in southern Serbia, and nobody has a job. They say they lost all hope of ever finding employment, and consequently want to leave Serbia.
“When the state asks how Ljek feeds eight children, then I will go to the census,” Bujanovac area resident Ljek Haliti told SETimes.
According to the 2002 census — excluding Kosovo — Serbia counted 59,952 Albanian minority residents, but the number is not entirely accurate since the southern Serbia Albanians boycotted the census. The census counted 135,670 Bosniaks and 15,869 Muslims.