Slobodan Milošević made Yugoslavia into fascist state based on Serbian nationalism. 30 years later, Donald Trump’s rhetoric reminds some Bosnian refugees of those years.
In 1994 I I visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC as part of a history class on fascism and Nazism. While there, I visited the lower level (down the steps at the center bottom of the image at right) where there was a gallery space set aside for special exhibits. The exhibition being shown was a bunch of small black and white images of concentration camps from the former Yugoslavia, where civil war and genocide had been taking place since 1991. What I remember the most was that, if the photos hadn’t been clearly labeled with dates and locations, the photos could have been mistaken for photos of the German death camps instituted by the Nazis during World War II.
Today, I read in the Guardian about how the large Bosnian Muslim population of St. Louis, Missouri seemed to be uniting against Donald Trump because they are the children of refugees or former refugees themselves. Given my own experience at the Holocaust Memorial Museum, this grabbed my interest. What made my guts twist was the following:
“This election is really, really important, but especially for Bosnian Americans because we have seen what hate speech can do in a country. Some of the older ones are scared, because this is a similar thing going on back in Bosnia in the 1990s before the election.” – insurance agent Ibro Tucakovic, a former refugee (emphasis added)
Think about this for a moment. Some of the refugees from Bosnia, who watched their country turn fascist under Slobodan Milošević and who lived through and then fled ethnic violence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, are now warning that Trump is using the same language that was an omen of the horrors that turned them into refugees.
We downplay the stakes of this election at our own peril.