Workers' Aid for Bosnia
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (April 2009)|
Workers' Aid for Bosnia (sometimes abbreviated to "Workers' Aid") was founded in London, United Kingdom in 1993, after a call by the Campaign Against Fascism in Europe (CAFE). Sixty people – socialists, trade unionists and Bosnian refugees – met to discuss how to organise solidarity with those people in ex-Yugoslavia defending a united, multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina. Workers' Aid was supported by the International Socialist Group and the Workers Revolutionary Party (Workers Press).
At the founding meeting a letter was read out from a Serbia war opponent. It appealed for workers in Britain to take food to the mining communities of Tuzla, the multi-ethnic bastion of Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been under siege by nationalist forces for many months. This became its first major activity.
It began an appeal for volunteers, money and food. Meetings were held throughout the country appealing for support from the trade unions and the working class movement. It bought its first lorry with money donated by the Muslim Solidarity Campaign. Once further lorries were available, they travelled in convoys. What distinguishes Workers Aid from other humanitarian charities and NGOs was its explicit political stance. It advocated the raising of the UN imposed arms embargo, which effectively left the Bosnians defenceless against the much better armed Serb nationalists. It did not see the war as a civil war between warring tribalisms, but a specific political project driven by Greater Serb nationalism and, to a less extent, Croatian nationalism. Workers Aid never saw itself as a charity, but as a campaigning organisation aiming to catalyse a response from the broader labour movement.
The group continued its work in the former Yugoslavia, first visiting Kosovo in January 1996. Under its new name, Workers Aid for Kosova (Kosova is the Albanian name of Kosovo), it was one of the first organisations to take aid to Kosovo during the NATO intervention of July 1999. During July and August of that year they supported miners in and around Kosovska Mitrovica and Pristina, and – with support from the Students' Representative Council of the University of Aberdeen together with Aid Convoy – supplied the students' union of the University of Pristina. A film exists of this trip, entitled simply Convoy, and made by Rachel Robertson, a member of the convoy team.
Later, some of Workers' Aid members went on to other political campaigns, such as Reclaim the Streets and the Liverpool Dockers' Strike. Others became involved with mainstream charitable organisations, or ran other organisations such as Aid Convoy, which continues to work in neighbouring Albania as well as other countries. Many individual trade union branches and members also took practical solidarity action.
- Robert Myers "The Fallacy of Neutral Humanitarianism in Bosnia" Human Rights Dialogue" January 6, 2001