Sandzak And South Trouble Spots For Serbia


By Igor Jovanovic

After a week marked by tension in northern Kosovo, Belgrade saw the re-emergence of two other potential trouble spots. First, some Bosniak factions in the western Serbian region of Sandzak announced they would push for autonomy.

Next, Albanians in southern Serbia began organising protest rallies, dissatisfied with the conditions in local education.

Analysts in Belgrade believe developments in these two parts of Serbia are linked to the Kosovo crisis, and also with Serbia’s aspiration to gain EU candidate status by the end of the year.


“At this moment Serbia is under a lot of pressure over northern Kosovo, as well as over some other issues related to the possibility of gaining EU candidate status,” said Predrag Simic, a political science professor at the University of Belgrade. “I think that pressure is present at this particular moment, when Serbia is highly sensitive to that sort of criticism from Brussels.”

The Sandzak issue flared on Thursday (September 15th) with a statement by Mufti Muamer Zukorlic — leader of the Islamic Community in Serbia. He accused Belgrade of discriminating against Bosniaks in Sandzak and announced the region would seek autonomy.

Sandzak, he added, would open regional offices in Brussels, Washington, Istanbul and Sarajevo.

Zukorlic has received support from Bosnian Muslim leader Reis Mustafa Ceric, who blasted Belgrade for “carrying out increased discrimination” against the Sandzak Bosniaks.

Belgrade is aiming to create “an environment of fear and lynching” in Sandzak, Ceric said, warning of a “new crisis point in Europe”. He compared the atmosphere to that which preceded the outbreak of conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1990s.

His comments were met with disapproval by Bosniak party representatives in the Serbian government.

Meho Omerovic, a Bosniak MP with the ruling coalition, said Ceric’s statements were “disturbing and dangerous” and would bring “nothing good” to the Bosniaks in Sandzak.

“Instead of reconciling his believers, the reis is an additional factor in new divisions,” Omerovic said.

According to Dusan Janjic, president of the Forum for Ethnic Relations, it is no accident that the controversy is heating up now.

“By making that statement, Ceric aims to put the issue of Sandzak on the agenda of Serbia’s open issues,” Janjic said. “Because when Serbia becomes a member candidate and gets a date for the beginning of negotiations with the EU, it may be too late.”

Simic, meanwhile, agrees that comparisons with the pre-Milosevic era are off base. However, he said, Sandzak does suffer from economic woes and resulting social tensions.

“There is a difficult social situation in Sandzak that is not much worse than the situation in other parts of Serbia, but due to multiethnic makeup and the vicinity of Bosnia, it is given additional ethnic characteristics,” Simic told SETimes.

Prior to the Sandzak announcement, several thousand Albanians from southern Serbia held a protest rally in Bujanovac on September 13th, disgruntled over omissions in the education system meant for the minority.

The Albanian representative in the Serbian parliament said the rally “was not political”, and its objective had been to show that Albanians were having trouble with education, “primarily due to the lack of textbooks in Albanian”.

After that event, the Serbian government announced there had indeed been omissions in the system, stressing it would try to speed up efforts to solve the problem.


The Southeast European Times Web site is a central source of news and information about Southeastern Europe in ten languages: Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, English, Greek, Macedonian, Romanian, Serbian and Turkish. The Southeast European Times is sponsored by the US European Command, the joint military command responsible for US operations in 52 countries. EUCOM is committed to promoting stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

2 thoughts on “Sandzak And South Trouble Spots For Serbia

  • September 21, 2011 at 9:25 am

    requires that the Sandzak region is a Muslim majority more power and freedom and that discrimination against Muslims in this region are stoper immediately. too many Muslims suffer from the Orthodox fundamentalism. Approximately 70,000 Muslims have fled the region since the war began. in the region already 10 genocide of Muslims for centuries and nothing is done to help the Muslim population. What is Europe?? Muslims are not interested ????? Muslim population.
    a genocide for centuries. help stop the Sandzak Muslims to live in freedom. opus please stop it.
    1943 January 10: The commander of the units četnici Lim and Sandzak, Pavle I. Djurisic, reports to Chief of Staff Draza Mihailovic, January 10, 1943, that the recent action of his men in the areas of Plevlje, Sjenica, Pec and Kolašin covering 33 villages have resulted in the death of “400 Muslim fighters about “and the” 1000 women and children. “All the villages in question was burned (and Dedijer Miletić, 1990: 299 to 302 ).***
    February 7: In a report dated February 13, 1941 and addressed to the Chief of Staff Draza Mihailovic, Pavle I. Djurisic, commander of the units četnici Lim and Sandžak shows that “action against Muslims in the districts of Plevlje, Cajnice and Foca was executed” February 7, 1941. It states that “the Muslim population was completely destroyed” during this operation: it mentions 1200 deaths among the Muslim fighters and “8000 victims among women, the elderly and children” (Dedijer and Miletić, 1990: 329 – 333). The number of victims of operations by the forces of the Yugoslav Army in the country between January and February 1943 against the Muslims is estimated at 10,000 (Tomasevich, 1975: 258 ).***

  • September 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    It is sad that in this day and age populations in regions such as Sandzak are forced to live as second class citizens under oppression and discrimination. I am interested in seeing how events unfold in the near future and what role the international community and especially the US plays.

    Hopefully the people of Sandzak don’t go through the same suffering the citizens of Bosnia, Kosovo and others went through in history in order to have their rights recognized and respected.


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