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Supporting Conscientious Objectors and Deserters in Times of War: an objector’s perspective

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Bojan Aleksov became an anti-war activist in 1991. Since 2007, he has been a lecturer in Balkan history at University College London. His very personal perspective on anti-war activism in the former Yugoslavia appeared as 'Resisting the Wars in the Former Yugoslavia: An Autoethnography' in Resisting the Evil: [Post-]Yugoslav Anti-War Contention. Here, he writes from the same personal perspective about how to support conscientious objectors and deserters in times of war.

Conscientious Objection (CO) was never going to be easy, certainly not in Serbia during the 1990s.

Throughout history, people have strived for peace and yet our past often looks like a succession of wars. It's one thing to want peace, another to achieve and maintain it. 'Others' are usually blamed for war and aggression, while we see ourselves or our people as victims. We claim that we are defending ourselves from these vicious 'others'. Even big powers and their more imperially inclined elites usually justify their wars as preventative, defensive, 'good' wars, while enemies are only after 'bad' wars. Indeed, the greatest achievement of modern times in preventing war, or limiting its disastrous consequences, has so far only been to set some rules of how to wage war, and some conventions on war crimes.

Kriegsdienstverweigerung als Strategie

Es mag wohl sein, dass die Kriegsdienstverweigerung eher als ein moralisches Gebot denn als eine Strategie betrachtet wird. In Ländern, wo es noch Wehrpflicht gibt, zeigen sich unterschiedliche Vermeidungsstategien und Verzögerungstaktiken. Einige Menschen bekommen eine Entlassung aus medizinischen Gründen. Andere fliehen, emigrieren, wählen einen Beruf, der sie von der Einberufung befreit oder bestechen die Behörden.

Case Study: Otpor: People's Power in Serbia

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Within two years of its founding in 1998, the Serbian youth group Otpor (Resist) played a central role in bringing down Slobodan Milošević. Initially their campaign aimed to change attitudes towards resisting Milošević, for instance by using nonviolent 'guerilla' tactics of communication (graffiti, street theatre, etc.), often using humour to attract interest and to reduce fear. Increasingly, they put pressure on the divided democratic opposition and found points of unity to counter Milošević and to undermine 'the pillars of his power'.

Attack on activists at the headquarters of Women in Black in Belgrade, Serbia

Author: Tanjug

Belgrade - The peace group Women in Black announced today that last night around 1:30 am, two young men invaded the organization's headquarters and with a hammer attacked men and women activists in the kitchen.

This incident took place just before the holding of the Pride Parade in Belgrade, which indicates that homophobia is the motive of the attackers, a statement declared.

Serbia: Government suspends military service duty

30 September 2010

Belgrade, 30 Sept 2010 – [...]

The government decided to suspend military service duty and sent this decision to the parliament for adoption. As of 1 January 2011, military service will be only for those who voluntarily want to be army members.

Defence reform yields excellent results

Serbia: Conscription to end on 1 January 2011

With Serbia, the last country of the former Yugoslavia is abolishing conscription. Radio Srbija reported on 16 July that from 1 January 2011 on, Serbia will have fully professional armed forces. According to an interview of Minister of Defence Dragan Sutanovac with Ekonom:east Magazine, the plan is to have 10600 professional soldiers and 2000 places for those who wish to serve voluntarily. According to the report of Radio Srbija there are already 8,000 applications, of which 1,600 (20%) are from women.

The continuity of the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica

On March the 30th, 2010. the Parliament of Serbia adopted the Declaration on condemning the crime in Srebrenica.

After a long debate in the Parliament, when we could hear fascist statements from the members of Radical party, Democratic party of Serbia and Serbian Progressive party, the members of the Parliament adopted the Declaration on condemning the crimes in Srebrenica.

Serbia: National Assembly passes new Amnesty Law

On 23 March 2010, the National Assembly of Serbia passed a new Amnesty Law, which will allow many Serbian expatriates to return to Serbia without fear of being arrested. According to the law, all citizens who have avoided military duty or service, or willfully left the Serbian Army from 18 April 2006 until the new law comes into force, will be granted amnesty.

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