Edin Islamović is the representative of the Youth Association „Damar“ of Visoko. In 2010 they officially started, at the time he was vice-president, and currently he is the association’s president. More broadly, he is the NGO sector, human-rights and democracy activist, and is also involved in many other related issues. Through informal education and the NGO sector, he became a couch for non-violent communication, leadership team, writing of project proposals and other issues, and he is happy to share his experience and knowledge with others. He believes that, the more activists and people are able to fight for their rights, and to present and implement their positive ideas, it would benefit entire BiH society.
How come you are so involved in activism?
I have a sense that, since I was little, it was always some kind of struggle for survival. Somehow, it was always a struggle against injustice, for this or that, and somehow it remained that way. Then I went into politics, believing that politics can engender solutions. However, in a year or two of political engagement I realized that it is simply a crowd of people who are protecting some quite different interests and that it is in no way what I want to be doing.
I believed that, through my ideas and initiatives, I can help create a better society, and then I attended a BiH youth conference in Banja Luka and I realized that the NGO sector was ideal for me and that I could implement all my ideas through the NGO sector.
So, the NGO sector rather than politics?
Definitely, I keep recommending it to everyone. Nowadays, politicians lobby young people to go into politics, telling them that in that way they contribute to bettering their society. Personally, I believe they cannot, as long as our country’s constitution remains unchanged, and until we become a country of citizens, there is no system, no mechanism that can protect any positive initiative from individuals and political operatives.
I am not saying that young are not allowed to submit initiatives, legally it all seems ideal, this process is fascinating for young people. However, when you get into it, you realize that politics is where everything gets obstructed.
What I keep saying, and I find acutely interesting, is that we focus on local projects, visible ones. And then, bit by bit, we take it to the logical conclusion.
I do not have to protest because we do not have a park. But we can submit a project proposal and develop an inclusive park, as we proposed. I do not have to stand in front of the municipal building for two days yelling, „Aaa, we want a bench“ – we will submit a project and build those benches. Even if it needs to come from the budget, because it is public money. Simply, we will only find a different channel to direct this positive energy, to contribute to local community development without getting bitter about politics.
What is the main activity of „Damar“?
„Damar“ is mostly into activism, i.e into making young people proactive and productive in the communities where they live.
We had actions in various spheres, from activist actions, trainings, we worked on reproductive health, kept open centers, friendly youth health centers, it was open in the Health Care Center. It offered free, anonymous and high-quality services for all young people through a project funded by UNDP and implemented by XY association from Sarajevo.
Later we connected with World Vision and worked on child protection, an eco kindergarten, we worked at the kindergarten. Actually, we did not work in the kindergarten, kindergarten teachers worked there, but we secured the funding for colored pencils and everything the teachers needed at the given point in time, and otherwise we were there in a monitoring role.
We also worked on strengthening young people’s life skills. Now we are in the child protection group, we work on economic empowerment of young people and economic empowerment of girls. In reality, these are two separate projects. We also work on inclusion, we worked with the Day Care Center in Dobrinje, and, simply, when we get a project like that, about inclusion, we strive to be inclusive across the board.
Many activities were ad hoc – peace promotion, promotion of co-existence, of tolerance. Some festival that last three days. They bring results, which may not be obvious to the public, but which we can see, such as connecting young people from RS, from FBiH. We encountered negativity, some parents opposed co-existence… Young people travel little, they don’t get around much and that is the major problem and that is where the fear originates. They are afraid, because they still see all those towns as enemy towns, because those people over there are also not so much inclined towards towns where majority population is of a different ethnicity, unlike them, because they also do not travel and do not get around.
Have you ever thought about leaving BiH?
I have. That is a perpetual topic, keeps popping up. Should we go or should we stay? I don’t know.
For young people, if they get married, have a baby, and then lose the job, there is no one who can support them. They are left to their own devices. Which means that there is no state that can protect any of its citizens. This is a state on a respirator, and it is just a matter of time when it will fail.
We keep spending other people’s money, we take out IMF loans to pay pensions, we do not have a fund of our own. We are all working illegally, as unregistered workers. And we cannot, such a country cannot prosper, it has no future. On the other hand, the laws are such that they simply force you. Because when you register a shop, say a cafe – you have to pay 70% of your profits to the state of BiH, which does nothing for you.
So, we can be activists, we can love… I mean, patriotism is a work that gives me the creeps. I am not a patriot, but I am for a better life. Simply, I love my town, I love this country, but it is not I could not do without them.
I believe that people feel fine wherever they can work and earn their living, no matter what country and what environment that may be.
Young people need open vistas, they need greater options for student exchanges. For instance, the other day we had an interview here, and the guy is unsure whether he should go abroad to study, or stay here. My first reaction was, „You go abroad – you don’t like it, you come back to BiH. This is your home, you have nothing to lose. You could only expand your knowledge, become an expert in your profession, and then come back to BiH.“
You ought to have a choice.
„Cvetak“, what is that?
Cvetak – a colleague and I started a business. We transformed into a form of social entrepreneurship. We applied for a municipal and USAID grant. We grow and sell medicinal herbs. Near Irma’s house we have a plot of land, we grow stuff, things we don’t grow we are going to purchase, or we pick them in the mountains and dry them, we have a natural drying shed.
In simple terms, we wanted to start a business, because we are constantly involved in social entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, and we found an ideal opportunity to experience how that works in practice.