By Gabriel Kuhn
About two weeks ago I found out that I was a persona non grata in the United States. My application for travel authorization was rejected, apparently because I’m on the government’s “Terrorist Watch List.” This forced me to cancel a three-month speaking tour I had planned this spring, and effectively keeps me banned from entering the country until we will see a general overhaul of anti-terrorism legislation.
I have stated before that the personal harm in this case is minimal. It’s unfortunate that I can’t visit the US where I have spent a fair amount of my life and where many of my best friends live. But it’s far from tragic. Billions of people can’t visit the US for no other reason than being poor. That’s the real scandal.
However, as insignificant as the personal consequences of this case may be, it points to a problem that is far more serious and frightening than the case itself: namely, the ever increasing international surveillance and repression of activists and social movements in the name of “anti-terrorism” and “national security.” The dangers inherent in this are far from abstract. There are people who already suffer the consequences dearly. A prime example are the Belgrade Six.
For those who are not familiar with the story, just a quick rundown. The websites listed below will give you a more comprehensive picture.
On August 25, 2009, two petrol bombs were thrown at the Greek Embassy in Belgrade. The damage done was minimal: a window was broken and there were some burn marks on the outside wall. A previously unknown group named Crni Ilja published a communiqué, declaring that the action happened in solidarity with a jailed Greek anarchist, Thodoros Iliopoulos. On September 4, five members of the Serbian Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative (ASI) were arrested, followed by another arrest a few days later. Sanja Dojkic, Tadej Kurepa, Nikola Mitrovic, Ratibor Trivunac, Ivan Savic, and Ivan Vulovic, today known as the Belgrade Six, have been imprisoned since.
The indictment, filed in November, accuses the six of “international terrorism” – if sentenced, they are looking at prison sentences from three to fifteen years. There is no evidence that links them to the action of August 25 – let alone the fact that the action hardly strikes one as “international terrorism” by any stretch of the imagination; especially considering the bombs that government armies drop daily, killing thousands in the process.
What the Belgrade Six are guilty of are their political convictions and their political work. They are put on trial for being anarchists – for believing in a world of equality and justice for all. This is what international anti-terrorism legislation criminalizes. It is nothing new. Legal repression contributed significantly to the decline of the first strong wave of international anarchism from 1870 to 1920.
Our general response must be a broad struggle against the discourse, the judicial manifestations, and the powers behind these developments. Yet, at times, individual cases demand our immediate attention and focus. The trial against Sanja, Tadej, Nikola, Ratibor, Ivan, and Ivan is scheduled to begin on February 17. Please visit the following sites for further information: