Students say it with loo rolls

January 10, 1997

Serbian academics have spoken out in support of students who have staged more than six weeks of protests against the annulment of local government elections in which opposition parties claimed victory.

Over 1,800 of Belgrade University's 4,000 professors signed a petition backing student demands. When students heard that the ministry of education was sacking professors who had expressed support for them, their reaction was: "The teaching process will be deprived of the best."

Vukasin Pavlovic, dean of the faculty of political sciences, said: "I am so proud of my students. The protest is the first harbinger of the awakening civic society in Serbia."

The students have had enough of the war, poverty, dictatorship and primitivism they believe President Slobodan Milosevic has brought upon Serbia.

Humour characterised the protests. When passing by state and city institutions, they turn their backs to them. In front of the building housing the city electoral commission, they threw rolls of toilet paper on which it said: "We are fed up with ****." The day after Milosevic addressed a rally of his supporters in central Belgrade, the students cleaned the spot where the president had delivered his speech with washing powder.

After the protests in 1991 and 1992, Belgrade University lost its autonomy, students who took part were investigated by the police, gave up and left the country, and the professors backing them were dismissed. "We've learnt a lot from previous mistakes. Our demands are very realistic this time," said economics student Mirjana Milosevic. "We can't bear this situation any longer."

Boris Kovaljevic, from the faculty of philosophy, said: "We may not know what we want, but we do know what we do not want. We do not want stupidity, lawlessness, violence, a false picture of reality. I am trying to stay and save this country before my generation leaves or says 'we're out of here'."

Law student Miljan Kunijevic was a 19-year-old conscript when Milosevic sent him and his fellow-soldiers to Slovenia at the start of the war. Miljan has taken part in all student protests since. "I'll go on protesting until Milosevic falls."

Agronomy student Aleksandar Radulovic does not want to leave the country as so many others have. "I couldn't, even if I wanted to. My parents' savings disappeared in one of Milosevic's bogus banks."

A forestry student who wishes to remain anonymous said: "Afraid? No. I am just one of many students asking for change. They took from us the last human right we had, the right to vote."

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