ponedeljek, november 15, 2004

Sarajevo’s Prešeren Park disputed

Prešeren Park in the center of Sarajevo has caused a heated arguement between local Slovenes and Muslim activists in the Bosnian capital. Though work on the park was to be completed by the end of November, everything is now on hold.

Sarajevo's Slovene community of about 2000 people, led by the Cankar Society, convinced the local authorities to name an illegal parkinig lot near the National Theatre in downtown Sarajevo "Prešeren Park" in 1994, as a symbol of Slovene/Bosnian friendship.

A sign was put up in 1996 but renovations have only just begun now. Extensive construction valued at EUR 100,000 began in early October to create a more proper green space. The project also calls for lines from Prešeren poems to be inscribed on a wall at the park’s entrance.

Work began on 18 October with a ceremony attended by leading Sarajevo politicians and Slovene Ambassador to Bosnia Tadej Labernik [Delo / 19.10.04 / Prešeren Park v Sarajevu].

However, a Muslim religious group launched a protest shortly after work began, claiming that the land belongs to their religious community and demanding its return. The group is protesting by using the park for daily prayers, prohbiting the construction crew from working. The group is not protesting the local Slovenes, but rather the local authorities in Sarajevo.

The protest is being led by the Vakufska Direkcija, which manages the Muslim religious community’s property throughout Bosnia. The site of the new park held a 15th century mosque and cemetery, but was nationalized in 1945 and two years later the mosque and cemetery were destroyed. Now the local Muslims want the land back [Delo / 05.11.04 / Ustavili dela v Prešernovem parku].

Cankar Society head Stanislav Koblar issued a press release in which he gave assurances that care has been taken to preserve anything that might be left of the mosque. He also commented that in the past 57 years since the mosque was destroyed, no one has shown any public interest in the site aside from the local Slovenes.