On Monday, March 11, the hallway leading to the Youth Initiative for Human Rights office was marked with the graffiti messages “Ratko Mladić” and “No divisions”, while the office doors were covered in spray-paint and stickers with photographs of 8 prominent women in Serbian history and the writing “A source of pride and a true Serbian woman, you are unworthy of her shadow”.
We interpret the messages that have been left for us as a reaction to the fact that we painted over three graffiti messages (“Ratko Mladić, Serbian hero”, “Kosovo is Serbia”, and “No divisions”) in the Terazije tunnel two weeks prior. The graffiti we had painted over, as the utility services of the city of Belgrade should have done, and the graffiti on our door come from the same nationalist and misogynist sources. Human rights activists have always been the primary target when nationalist muscles are being exercised.
Ongoing competitions in expressions of nationalism between ruling parties and opposition movements must stop. A society based on human rights principles, European values, must be explicitly direct and clear – Ratko Mladić is a war criminal who carries the most responsibility for the genocide committed in Srebrenica. We do not have the right to use euphemisms, make the matter relative or deny the crime.
Human rights activists mustn’t remain alone in standing against radical right-wing movements and nationalism. If we allow for the glorification of war criminals, we diminish our chances of living in peace, prospering and living better than we are today. A space for war criminals cannot exist in state institutions, the Parliament, state supported publishing houses and the education system, nor on the walls of our cities.