Latest Articles

Edith Ackermann

Talent, intuition, creativity

On the limits of digital technologies

Imagining and realizing novel ideas engages aspects of the mind, body and self that we barely control, says Edith Ackermann in interview. Learning, like the art of living itself, is about navigating uncertainties rather than controlling what we cannot predict. [ more ]

Nikolay Nikolov

Without a façade to hide behind

Eurozine Review

The world's echo system

Ferry Biedermann, Nat Muller

No stone throwing in glass houses

Farid Hafez

The Arab Spring and "Islam"

New Issues


GAM | 10 (2014)

Intuition & the machine

Esprit | 7/2014


Osteuropa | 5-6/2014

Zerreißprobe. Die Ukraine: Konflikt, Krise, Krieg [Crucial test. Ukraine: Conflict, crisis, war]

Eurozine Review

Eurozine Review

The world's echo system

In "ResetDOC", Seyla Benhabib critiques humanitarian reason; "Blätter" reports on Europe's new refugee movement; "openDemocracy" expresses alarm at the expulsions of a predatory capitalism; "Springerin" looks at the Arab Spring's legacy in contemporary art; "Dérive" sees through the technology-driven smart city hype; "Vikerkaar" visits the post-socialist bazaar; "Magyar Lettre" publishes an extract from Endre Kukorelly's memoir; in "Letras Libres", Margaret MacMillan sees parallels between 1914 and 2014; "L'Espill" looks at new forms of Spanish nationalism; "Fronesis" calls for a more radical discussion of crises; and "Schweizer Monat" talks to the lyricist Durs Grünbein.

Eurozine Review

Courage of thought vs technocracy

Eurozine Review

Every camera a surveillance camera

Eurozine Review

All about the beautiful game

Eurozine Review

New fascisms coated with sugar

My Eurozine

If you want to be kept up to date, you can subscribe to Eurozine's rss-newsfeed or our Newsletter.

Share |

The dogs of Sarajevo

A state apparatus that doesn't function on the level of dogs can't function on the level of people either, writes Slavenka Drakulic. This week, the Bosnian parliament votes on amendments to the law on animal protection. But what is in fact at stake is the continued dehumanization of society.

The number of stray dogs in Sarajevo has recently surpassed 11,000, according to Bosnian media reports. The strays are said to be a significant nuisance, attacking people and a possible source of infectious diseases in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its 300,000 inhabitants.

Photo: jah poupoune. Source: Flickr

Last October, during a visit from the British animal welfare organization Dogs Trust that provided assistance in the form of funds for the mass castration of strays, British ambassador to Bosnia Nigel Casey said: "Dogs are more important than politics."

And indeed, the Bosnian example demonstrates that dogs and politics are tied together. In the war of 1992-1995, not only people, but many dogs were displaced and abandoned, left to their own devices. But in 2009, the authorities passed a law obliging local communities to build asylums and castrate stray animals. Many smaller towns did just that, but funds were insufficient to realize such initiatives in Sarajevo. In response to which, the UK charity RSPCA, Dog Trust and the EU all offered financial assistance. But the mayor, himself a veterinary physician, declined the offers. Why? Because killing dogs is more profitable than catching, castrating and releasing them. Not to mention that some 700,000 pounds allocated by the EU for the castration and putting down of strays mysteriously disappeared...

Two years ago, the young Bosnian film director Damir Janecek made a documentary film entitled Kinofil, revealing how money is made out of killing strays. Among others, activists from SOS Bosnia (an association for the prevention of cruelty towards animals) speak in the film about the torture and mass killing of dogs in Sarajevo, and about their own ordeal at the hands of people involved, who receive a reward for each dead dog. A former pound worker relates how dogs are beaten to death or have chlorine injected directly into their hearts. Dogs are also killed in the streets – with guns, poison and baseball bats. It seems that anything is permitted and that there are more than enough people – children included – willing to do the job.

Since its screening at Sarajevo Film Festival in 2010, the film has been boycotted in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The director, as well as the founder of SOS Bosnia, were forced to leave the country after serious threats and attacks.

What kind of people torture dogs, and allow their kids do the same? What kind of society allows such people to get away with such acts scot-free, while witnesses to their criminal behaviour are forced to leave the country?

The fate of the dogs can't be separated from the fate of the people. Less than twenty years after the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Dayton agreement, memories of suffering are still very much alive – as well as the feeling that human life is not worth a penny. If a human life is worthless, how could any value be attached to a dog's? However, this does not explain the torturing and the brutality – that is, the lack of humanity and the surplus of violence among Sarajevans. Yes, poverty, powerlessness and the feeling of having no future contributes to their barbarism, but the question remains: why have so many citizens, even children, become indifferent to brutality towards dogs, and to such an extent that one could even call it pathological?

The answer lies not only in the domain of individual psychology, or mass psychology – according to which former victims often become perpetrators – but also in the fact that society does not recognize culprits in the perpetrators and does not administer punishment because the victims happen to be animals. In the absence of punishment, guilt spreads a kind of infection that is more dangerous than any infection the dogs are said to carry – it creates indifference and leads to the dehumanization of society. The worst thing that could happen to a victim is for him or her to become a perpetrator, thus completing the vicious circle and confirming that we are all the same.

The documentary Kinofil tells a story about a society where such a transformation is taking place. It also points to corruption and the absence of the rule of law as a basis for the cruelties. The fate of these dogs appears to be a suitable metaphor for the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina: if the state apparatus doesn't function on the level of dogs, it can't function on the level of people either. Ignoring the law creates conditions in which inhuman behaviour goes unpunished and, therefore, becomes habitual. The attitude towards the dogs reflects the attitude towards all who are weak, defenceless, different.

It is predictable that many will react to this concern for dogs by saying that the state's primary concern is for its citizens, to prevent insecurity, poverty, hunger, lack of hygiene, that is, "a dog's life". But the argument is flawed, simply because caring about people does not exclude caring about animals.

This week, the Bosnian Parliament, acting on a social-democratic proposal, will take a final vote on changes to the law on animal protection. If passed, the changes will enable the state to eliminate stray dogs after 15 days; before that they have a chance to be adopted or helped by animal advocate organizations such as "AWA Bosnia". It means making canocide legal, plain and simple. This law should not be allowed to pass.

Nigel Casey's words that dogs are more important than politics, are ominous. Unfortunately, the solution to this perfectly solvable problem of stray dogs in Bosnia is now an issue for – politics.


Published 2014-01-21

Original in English
First published in tportal, 12 January 2014 (Croatian version); Süddeutsche Zeitung, 20 January 2014 (German version); Eurozine (English version)

© Slavenka Drakulic
© Eurozine

Eurozine BLOG

On the Eurozine BLOG you can follow and comment on all coverage of the Kyiv conference, "Ukraine: Thinking together", including daily updates from Eurozine editors.
Thinking in times of change
There are both differences and similarities between the current events in Ukraine and the revolutions of 1989. In fact, the conference "Ukraine: Thinking Together" does have a predecessor: a meeting of eastern European intellectuals with their western counterparts that took place in Vienna in 1990. [more]

Focal points     click for more

Ukraine in focus
Ten years after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine is in the throes of yet another major struggle. Eurozine provides commentary on events as they unfold and further articles from the archive providing background to the situation in today's Ukraine. [more]

The ends of democracy
At a time when the global pull of democracy has never been stronger, the crisis of democracy has become acute. Eurozine has collected articles that make the problems of democracy so tangible that one starts to wonder if it has a future at all, as well as those that return to the very basis of the principle of democracy. [more]

Russia in global dialogue
In the two decades after the end of the Cold War, intellectual interaction between Russia and Europe has intensified. It has not, however, prompted a common conversation. The focal point "Russia in global dialogue" seeks to fuel debate on democracy, society and the legacy of empire. [more]

The EU: Broken or just broke?
Brought on by the global economic recession, the eurocrisis has been exacerbated by serious faults built into the monetary union. Contributors discuss whether the EU is not only broke, but also broken -- and if so, whether Europe's leaders are up to the task of fixing it. [more]

Time to Talk     click for more

Time to Talk, a network of European Houses of Debate, has partnered up with Eurozine to launch an online platform. Here you can watch video highlights from all TTT events, anytime, anywhere.
George Pagoulatos, Philippe Legrain
In the EU we (mis)trust: On the road to the EU elections
On 10 April, De Balie and the ECF jointly organized a public debate in Amsterdam entitled "In the EU we (mis)trust: On the road to the EU elections". Some of the questions raised: Which challenges does Europe face today? Which strategic choices need to be made? [more]

Support Eurozine     click for more

If you appreciate Eurozine's work and would like to support our contribution to the establishment of a European public sphere, see information about making a donation.

Vacancies at Eurozine     click for more

There are currently no positions available.

Editor's choice     click for more

William E Scheuerman
Civil disobedience for an age of total surveillance
The case of Edward Snowden
Earlier civil disobedients hinted at our increasingly global condition. Snowden takes it as a given. But, writes William E. Scheuerman, in lieu of an independent global legal system in which Snowden could defend his legal claims, the Obama administration should treat him with clemency. [more]

Literature     click for more

Olga Tokarczuk
A finger pointing at the moon
Our language is our literary destiny, writes Olga Tokarczuk. And "minority" languages provide a special kind of sanctuary too, inaccessible to the rest of the world. But, there again, language is at its most powerful when it reaches beyond itself and starts to create an alternative world. [more]

Piotr Kiezun, Jaroslaw Kuisz
Literary perspectives special: Witold Gombrowicz
The recent publication of the private diary of Witold Gombrowicz provides unparalleled insight into the life of one of Poland's great twentieth-century novelists and dramatists. But this is not literature. Instead: here he is, completely naked. [more]

Literary perspectives
The re-transnationalization of literary criticism
Eurozine's series of essays aims to provide an overview of diverse literary landscapes in Europe. Covered so far: Croatia, Sweden, Austria, Estonia, Ukraine, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, the Netherlands and Hungary. [more]

Debate series     click for more

Europe talks to Europe
Nationalism in Belgium might be different from nationalism in Ukraine, but if we want to understand the current European crisis and how to overcome it we need to take both into account. The debate series "Europe talks to Europe" is an attempt to turn European intellectual debate into a two-way street. [more]

Conferences     click for more

Eurozine emerged from an informal network dating back to 1983. Since then, European cultural magazines have met annually in European cities to exchange ideas and experiences. Around 100 journals from almost every European country are now regularly involved in these meetings.
Making a difference. Opinion, debate and activism in the public sphere
The 25th European Meeting of Cultural Journals
Oslo, 29 November - 2 December 2013
Under the heading "Making a difference. Opinion, debate and activism in the public sphere", the 2013 Eurozine conference focused on cultural and intellectual debate and the production of the public sphere. [more]

Multimedia     click for more
Multimedia section including videos of past Eurozine conferences in Vilnius (2009) and Sibiu (2007). [more]

powered by