Bosniaks protest over Serbian WW1-era songSource: B92, Tanjug
NEW YORK -- The UN secretary-general's spokesman on Friday responded to protests voiced by Bosniak (Muslim) associations over a Serbian song performed at the UNGA.
Answering questions of a Bosniak correspondent, who, Tanjug said, "voiced a very negative opinion of the song", Nesirky said at a regular press conference in the UN seat that Ban "obviously was not aware what the song was about or the use that has been made of it in the past".
The performance of the song on the Orthodox New Year in the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday was condemned by the Congress of North American Bosniaks, civil societies of refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the U.S., and the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica.
The Bosniak associations said earlier in the week that the UNGA concert represented "a scandalous humiliation of the victims of genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, because the band played a notorious, violent Serb nationalistic song, March on the Drina".
And while the Bosniak associations on Friday asked for UNGA President Vuke Jeremić to be sacked over the concert, Ban's spokesman Nesirsky reiterated that the UN chief "did not issue an apology", but expressed his regret if the inclusion of the song in the program offended anyone.
In response to this, the UNGA chairman's office stated earlier in the day - "with solemn respect for all the victims of the wars in former Yugoslavia" - that the protests amounted to "regrettable attempts to twist the meaning of the song".
"Written around a century ago, March on the Drina is a song that takes a central place in our memory of defending our freedom from aggressors in the First World War, during which Serbia lost a third of its male population in the many battles fought on the side of the Allies," the statement adds.
"We are very proud of that, and we wanted to share this song with the world, with a clearly stated accompanying message of reconciliation for present and future generations," Vuk Jeremić's office said.
At the beginning of the First World War, Austria-Hungary used its territory across the Drina River from Serbia - what it today Bosnia-Herzegovina - to stage an invasion and occupation of Serbia.
March on the Drina glorifies the sacrifice of the Serbian Kingdom soldiers who defended against the invasion along the area of the river - which resulted in the first Allied victory of the war when the Serbians won the Battle of Cer.