The Bosnian war has left an indelible mark on Bosnia-Herzegovina. The atrocities and brutal ethnic cleansing, committed between April 1992 and December 1995, shattered assumptions of a secure and peaceful Europe that had endured since World War Two. Bosnia has rarely been in the headlines since, except for the trials of war criminals at the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The conflict slipped back into the subconscious of the European mind, and the plight of the Bosnians seemed once again of little consequence. Then in 2014 riots and mass unrest against the political class threw Bosnia back onto the front pages. Commentators asked if the people of Bosnia had begun the process of shaking off the chains of ethnic and religious divisions and were re-taking control of their own destiny.
The protests began on 4 February 2014 in the northern city of Tuzla. Peaceful at first they turned violent the following day when hundreds of demonstrators, mostly former employees of several big companies, such as Dita, Polihem, Guming and Konjuh, clashed with police near the Tuzla cantonal government building. At least 600 protesters tried to storm the government building, accusing the authorities of turning a blind eye to the collapse of many state firms following their privatisation. Local media reported some of the protesters threw eggs, flares and stones at the windows of the building and set tyres on fire, blocking traffic in the city centre. Police eventually forced demonstrators back and cordoned off the building, but not before twenty-two people, including seventeen police officers, were injured and twenty-four arrested. The next day the number of protesters swelled to 6,000. Schools throughout Tuzla were closed and residents of buildings yelled insults and threw buckets of water at police passing by in full riot gear. After a long day of protest, the outraged demonstrators broke the last line of police defence and around a hundred young protesters stormed into the Cantonal building. They threw furniture and papers out of the windows, before setting fire to the whole building. Protesters demanded the release of those arrested the day before, including the ‘informal’ leader and organiser of the demonstrations, Aldin Siranović. A group of approximately 8,000 people started moving towards the municipal building and were met by tear gas. A pitched battle ensued, and after the police were forced back, protesters also set the municipal building on fire.