Bosnia holds first census since war, reviving divisions

Tue Oct 1, 2013 10:46am EDT
 
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnia launched its first census as an independent state on Tuesday, a politically charged event that has revived ethnic rifts and could shake the delicate power-sharing system that helped end the country's 1992-95 war.

The 15-day survey, the first in 22 years, should give the most detailed snapshot yet of the enduring upheaval of the war, in which some 100,000 people were killed and 2 million were driven from their homes.

The results, due in mid-January, will provide data vital for efficient economic planning and for Bosnia's ambition to join the European Union.

But the event has been marred by aggressive campaigning by Bosnia's former warring sides - Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) - who each fear being weakened in the system of ethnic quotas set by the 1995 Dayton peace accord.

The Dayton deal created an unwieldy form of government which stopped the war but which has stifled development since.

Political and religious leaders have for weeks been urging their constituents and congregations to declare their ethnicity and faith as a matter of national duty. Bosniak campaigners on Tuesday launched an Internet and television campaign featuring popular Bosnian actors and sports personalities declaring themselves Bosniaks and their faith to be Islam.

"As Muslims, we know that our religion is Islam and we'll say that in the census," Efendi Husein Kavazovic, the head of the Islamic community in Bosnia, said in an address published in the Sarajevo daily Dnevni Avaz. "We ... will say that we are Bosniaks and that our native language is Bosnian."

PRESSURE   Continued...

 
Surveyors look at maps before interviews during Bosnia's first census in Srebrenica, October 1, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic