by Dorijan Klasnić, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Selma Selman is from Bosnia and Herzegovina and is of Romani origin. She is a trained and accomplished artist whose artwork was recognised regionally, in the European Union and overseas.
Her artwork connects her roots and upbringing as well as personal experiences with a global search for functional, contemporary political resistance to oppression in all its shapes and forms, especially against women and children.
“Access to most basic human rights like education, work, social and health security is increasingly difficult globally”, Ms Selman says. “We need to eradicate the root causes that place obstacle to access to rights for all people”.
Selma Selman’s mother originates from Kosovo* and she married young in Bihać in Bosnia and Herzegovina where her new family suffered the horrors of the 1992-1995 war.
After the conflict, she, as many other people in the former country who found themselves far from their birthplace, faced serious issues in obtaining a status in the newly formed country. Her birth records from Kosovo* were uncomplete and for more that 10 years Selma’s mother was “without freedom of movement”, Ms Selman describes, “prisoner in a circle longing just to travel, visit her relatives and – see the sea!”.
This life story inspired Selma Selman to dedicate an artwork to the feeling of “liberation” once her mother succeeded to obtain Bosnian documents after a long struggle and a bylaw that enable her to cease being at risk of statelessness and finally travel – and see the sea near the Croatian town of Zadar in 2016.
“I know, even today, several people in my community, especially women, who still face the same problem”, Ms Selman states. “Every one of them needs to be approached as individual and solution leading to nationality and access to rights found”.
Her solo exhibition in the National Gallery of Bosnia and Herzegovina is open from 23.7. to 1.9.2021.
During a high-level meeting organized by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, in 2019, Bosnia and Herzegovina, along with many other countries, decided, with the support of UNHCR, to end statelessness by the end of 2024.
Given the small number of people, mostly in Roma communities, who are at risk of becoming stateless, with some improvements in the legal framework and practices in the field of registration of births and citizenship, it is to be expected that BiH will achieve this goal.
However, it is very important to continue to raise awareness of the importance of timely registration of children in the registry books to prevent the new phenomenon of statelessness in the future. Without birth registration, children do not have full access to education, documents, and health care, which is extremely important as it may deny them access to vaccine against the COVID-19 virus.