Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s controversial visit to BosniaGlobal Voices

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Collage made from Wikipedia photos of Novak Djokovic by Carine06 (CC BY-SA 2.0), Milan Jolovic by CarRadovan (CC BY-SA 4.0), Milorad Dodik by micki (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Semir Osmanagić by Agneta Geijer ( CC0).

Last week, Serbian tennis ace Novak Djokovic (also spelled “Đoković”) was embroiled in yet another controversy over his ties to Serbian extremists. Bosnian media outlet Faktor.ba reported that during a visit to the country, Djokovic was seen in the company of Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Milan Jolović, the former commander of one of the most notorious units in the rebel army of Republika Srpska, the Wolves of the Drina.

As the Bosnian press article notes, the Wolves of the Drina participated in the final attack on Srebrenica in July 1995 and were responsible for the capture of the fleeing Bosnian civilians and their transport to the various execution sites afterwards. the fall of the city.

The images above, taken during the attack on Srebrenica, show Jolović leading one of the last attacks on the enclave. Images on Twitter, below, show Jolović and his men in the company of the notorious Greek Volunteer Guard, including members of the far-right Golden Dawn and other Greek extremists. This group was stationed in eastern Bosnia and fought alongside the Army of Republika Srpska, including participating in the attack on Srebrenica.

During his stay in Bosnia, Djokovic also met the Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, arguably one of the most ardent genocide deniers, secessionists and Serbian nationalists in the region. Apart obstruct the work of the country’s institutions and promote war criminals, Dodik’s government has paid millions into shady NGOs that deny the established facts of the Srebrenica genocide.

In July, when the outgoing EU High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Valentin Inzko, introduced an amendment to the country’s penal code, making war crimes and genocide denial a punishable offense, Dodik called for the dissolution of the country. Since then he has often repeated the claim that there was no genocide in Srebrenica. Dodik has so far enjoyed impunity and has not been questioned by prosecutors, although nine NGOs and individuals have filed complaints against him.

This is not the first time that Djokovic (nicknamed “Nole”) has sparked controversy by supporting deeply problematic Serbian nationalist figures. Last year it was photography with a type of brandy called “Draža”, after famous WWII Chetnik leader and Nazi collaborator Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović. In addition to the well-documented genocidal campaign against the Bosnians in eastern Bosnia and the Sanjak and the war crimes against captured anti-fascist partisans, the Chetniks also committed numerous atrocities against Croats, Jews and other Serbs.

Again, naive fans kindly comment that Nole didn’t need to do this. I don’t want to rain on your show, but I think he needed it, otherwise he would have just refused to pose with Chetnik brandy.

Quasi-scientific links and quackery

It is possible that the lack of scientific education during his formative years – which he spent honing his tennis skills – and his susceptibility to emotional calls from family, friends and hosts who welcome him to his home. them, make Djokovic sensitive to dubious influences.

It also promotes the work of quasi-scientific and ultra-nationalist pseudo-historians and conspiracy theorists. Jovan Deretić and Milan Vidojevic. Djokovic used his wife’s Instagram account to show his admiration for Deretić and his alternate stories, including a well-known Serbian nationalist trope that Serbs are an ancient ‘heavenly people’ (nebeski narod).

The scientific community has underestimated the impact of such assertions about the historical, ethnic and religious supremacy of Serbs when Deretić began publishing them in the 1980s. Even though such “theories” have been satirized, for example through the popular play Farce chauvinist, they have widely accepted by the less educated Serbian population, inspiring ideologies which justified the mass atrocities during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia 10 years later.

Amateur excavation and construction of the government-backed tourist complex based on the “Bosnian pyramids” hoax may have damaged genuine archaeological and paleontological sites around Visoko in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Photo by Wikipedia user TheBIHLover, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Another reason for Djokovic’s visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina was the extent “”Bosnian pyramidsComposed in Visoko, becoming its most famous promoter and most frequent celebrity visitor. Run by a Bosnian-American businessman and quasi-archaeologist Semir Osmanagić, the “Bosnian Pyramids of the Sun” complex has become a major tourist attraction, and although it is clear that the site has some archaeological significance, Osmanagić claims that it is the seat of the largest and oldest artificial pyramids was demystified by connoisseurs.

Osmanagić has since revamped its sales pitch, claiming that the compound is a place of natural healing and regeneration of the body. Speaking of Djokovic’s last visit, he said the long network of tunnels his team has dug have regenerative characteristics, “cleaning up viruses and bacteria.”

Osmanagić also used his influence and popularity to engage in conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic on his YouTube channel, as documented by fact-checkers at Raskrinkavanje.ba.

While he doesn’t openly endorse anti-vaccine sentiment, Djokovic spoke out against mandatory vaccinations after being infected with COVID-19 in June 2020 at a controversial exhibition tournament he hosted in Croatia. The event reportedly included parties that defied anti-pandemic measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Opportunities for transcendence

While over the years Djokovic and his father have strongly supported Serbian hard positions against Kosovo’s independence, he has also shown that he can transcend the pull of Serbian nationalism. He has often advocated reconciliation between Serbs and Croats, opposing the antagonistic nationalism that caused enormous human suffering during the wars of the 1990s.

When in 2008 a French presenter mistakenly referred to him as Croatian, the Serbian tennis champion said in a statement to Croatian newspaper Jutarnji list that he did not mind. He has often said that the two peoples are very similar, “almost the same” and that it is understandable that “foreigners” cannot tell them apart.

Many people in the Balkans idolize Djokovic for associating his athletic achievements with philanthropy, funding humanitarian causes out of his considerable wealth. On his website, he describes himself as a “holist” – someone who applies a holistic approach to life. Increasing his critical thinking skills on issues related to science and history and broadening the range of his empathy to all the peoples of the Balkans who have suffered from die-hard extremists would be welcome. Unfortunately, as it stands, his adherence to conspiracy theories, revisionist history, quack medicine, and his habit of socializing with Serbian extremists undermines his positive efforts.

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