Sarajevo’s burned library testifies to multiethnic past

Wha-a new post?!

Yes, an article on the Sarajevo library:

The National Library was completely destroyed in the fire, along with 80 percent of its contents. Some three million books went up in flames, along with hundreds of original documents from the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

The artifacts had been a testimony to Bosnia’s centuries-old history and its identity as a multicultural society. The destruction of the National Library at the beginning of the Bosnian War was a symbol for one of the conflict’s central objectives – crushing the cultural identity of an entire society. A new word was created to describe the tragedy: culturcide.

 

Remembering…

Prijedor: An anatomy of a genocide

If there were a guidebook for preparing for a genocide, it is likely that it would include several fundamental steps.  The budding genocidaire would be advised to seek out a society characterised by increasing socio-political tensions, preferably in the grips of a war or economic collapse.  The media would be used to conduct a campaign of propaganda, vilifying one ethnic group and blaming them for the ill fortunes of another. Radio and news stations would need to be taken over, newspapers controlled.
The enemy would need to be identified, dehumanised.  The coup de grace would be getting the enemy to participate in identifying themselves, making them carry passbooks and identity cards, wear arm bands or paint their doors. And then you kill them.
If this reads as flippant, it is certainly not meant to be but it underlines the precise reason why genocide education is so important.  After the horrors of the Holocaust, there is no way that the painstakingly well-planned and systematic genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia should have gone unnoticed before it was too late, but they did.  And they followed a frighteningly similar pattern to that described above.

Protesting quietly with white ribbons 

“You know what happened here…It is creepy… And, the usual, everyday things were around us… A green shirt in the mud, right in front of the building…This reminded me that people lived there… They did not let us turn our cameras on… Thousands of plastic bags were hanging from tree branches… Like leaves…They photographed our car, wrote our license plate number down…We felt the urge to finish everything quickly and leave the place as soon as possible”.

“The last phase of genocide is denial”

To conclude, today with the struggle for the memorial centers in Prijedor camps, Omarska, Keraterm, Trnopolje, struggle to remove the monuments of Serbian fighters in Trnopolje, the struggle for marking genocide in Prijedor (even that name is forbidden there – the last stage of genocide is denial), we build a bridge of peace over the river of evil.

Because when the Serbs understand what happened, there will be more Milicas and Stasas, and when Bosniaks and Croats understand that all Serbs are not the same, understanding and tolerance will resurface again, and with that to the real co-existence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And make no mistake, only as such and only then can we enter European Union. The other day I was in Poland. That country and its people literally blossomed in 20 years. Just in the 1990s Poles were selling tools at markets across Bosnia to pay for their holidays on the coast. While we, “all too smart and full of nationalism”, still wallow in the mud and point fingers at each other …

The gap is, therefore, enormous, but the bridge is under construction.

And in Visegrad…

Victim monument protested in Visegrad  (Full Press Release)

Local political organisations are protesting against the wording of the monument unveiled in Višegrad last Saturday. The municipal committee of the SDS, PDP, SRS RS, SRS, “Vojislav Seselj”, SNS and SOE will hold a public protest against the monument tonight at 20:00 hours. A local news website (visegrad.ba) commented that the usage of the word genocide in an inscription on the monument is “another provocation that attempts to falsify history and denigrate the righteous struggle of the Serbian people and its victims for freedom and survival in this region”. They also printed a statement from the municipal committee: “Clearly, we say the authors of the forgeries that truth is stronger than lies, and that nobody and nothing can tarnish the honourable struggle of the Serbian people for their freedom and the Serbian Republic”.

Steps are also being taken by the Veterans Association of the RS to seek redress legally and some organisations are filing criminal charges against the people responsible for erecting the monument in Višegrad, using the word genocide “because it is a deliberate slander against the Serbian people, the municipality of Visegrad and Republika Srpska”.

 

Remembering the Prijedor genocide

On May 31, 1992 the local Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor first issued the decree that all non-Serbs had to mark their houses with white sheets or wear white armbands if they wanted to leave their houses. It was also the beginning of the systematic campaign against Bosniak and Bosnian Croats in Prijedor, the massacres and individual murders (Bosniak intellectuals, government & military officials were especially targeted), the mass rapes, tortures, forced deportations, and of course, the concentration camps-Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.

There are many accounts of the Prijedor genocide, from the court records of the ICTY, accounts from foreign journalists such as Ed Vullimary and of course, from the survivors, who now form part of a multi-continent diaspora stretching from Sarajevo to Utah. If the cruelty, horror and utter warpedness of the genocide could be distilled into one single event, it would be the murder of Emir Karabasic. A fellow prisoner was forced to bite off his testicles, he bled to death.

“Emir was in our room, beaten so bad he couldn’t walk and seemed to know something awful was going to happen. There was a man with us called Hamdija, who asked Emir: ‘What have they done to you?’ and Emir replied: ‘Nothing compared to what they’ll do next’. A prisoner gave him a jacket, saying ‘that’ll protect you a bit’, but Emir said: ‘I won’t need anything any more’.

“We heard the song they played while they were doing what they did: it was famous, by Sinan Sakic, called ‘Pusti Me Da Zivim’ – Let Me Live. He was screaming for 35 minutes, and we sat upstairs and listened. It’s a different kind of screaming from a normal beating, the screaming of a man who knows that it’s not going to stop, and it’s only a matter of minutes before you depart this life. You can’t reproduce it and you don’t hear it in any other circumstances.” (from Bosnia’s victims 20 years on)

Twenty years after the genocide, survivors and family of the victims are unable to commemorate their dead in their former hometown. That is because the mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic, has banned the gathering. The reasoning, according to Mayor Pavic, by calling the crimes in Prijedor a ‘genocide’ the victims have ‘undermined the town’s reputation.’ In case one was wondering if the local Prijedor government has an issue with commemorations in general-they do not. One Wednesday, the municipality marked the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian Army attack on Prijedor, where 15 soldiers belonging to the Serbian forces were killed.

While forbidding family members to commemorate their dead is particularly odious, the larger issue of how the Bosnian genocide is remembered is not restricted to this one incident in Prijedor. On May 9, guards at the Omarska factory forbade survivors to place flowers at  the gate. Omarska, is under the management of the British steel company ArcelorMittal, who in accordance to the wishes of Pavic, will only allow victims to visit Omarska on five days throughout the year (evidently, not on May 9th). Nor is this issue restricted to Prijedor (e.g. Andricgrad).

This time, the  result of Marko Pavic’s actions to ‘protect’ Prijedor’s reputation from the families of the victims is the  ‘Stop Genocide Denial’ campaign. On May 31st, human rights activists, survivors and others from around the world wore white arm bands to remember and show solidarity with the victims of the Prijedor genocide and other genocides. In Belgrade, the victims will be remembered in two seperate events, one for all of girls and women raped in Prijedor and the White Ribbon Day, which will be held on Friday afternoon.

Daily Round Up

Serbians and Croatians have strong ties with Bosnia

“We were fascinated by the relationship that Croatians and Serbians have with the Bosnians. The data showed that the citizens of both Croatia and Serbia care about what is happening in Bosnia, and this means that Bosnia has real friends and advocates in those countries,” says Skoko.

When the participants thought of Bosnia and Herzegovina, they thought first and foremost of “burek and ćevapi“[Bosnian traditional food] as symbols of a very specific Bosnian cuisine. However, this culinary association was stronger for the Croatian respondents  (27%) than for those from Serbia (18%).

The second most popular association with Bosnia was its  “humor and stress-free life“– 16% in Serbia and 13% in Croatia. This was followed by “political tensions” (12% in both Serbia and Croatia), multiculturalism (12% in Serbia and 10% in Croatia), and “two entities and three peoples” (11% in Croatia and 10% in Serbia).

A bridge, a river and 66 funerals: Visegrad 20 years on 

After this, everyone descends through the silent town. Children leaving school stand and stare. They do not remember a Višegrad with a Muslim population, they do not remember a war, they know only what they’re taught by their parents, and in school. The rest watch impassively from windows and balconies. Everyone is hyper sensitive to any signs of trouble or provocation. There are none. The younger adults of the town do not hide their smirks however. We pass “Andricgrad” a new aspect of the town being built by Emir Kostirica and part-funded by Milorad Dodik personally. It will be the set for a film production of Bridge on the Drina, though one imagines that, in the now homogeneously Serb Višegrad, the film may have to re interpret Andric’s depiction of the town (and its bridge) to fit in with the new Muslim-less history that is now writ large over the Republika Srpska.
The crowds gather on the bridge, filling it. The sides are lined with roses, and from the crown of the bridge, a parapet, there dangle two long strips of red cloth. Then, more speeches. The cafe adjoining the bridge makes a great place from which to view proceedings; it is filled with both residents and people come for the ceremony. Some of the locals leave; others sit back and watch, two lads in particular. They grinned and raised their glasses to each other. The cafe owner turns the music up to drown out the speeches and the bouncy euro-techno beat of “du hast den schonsten arsch der welt ” (You have the most beautiful arse in the world) drifts out across the river. On the bridge, the speeches carried on for another half an hour, before finally, the roses were cast into the water, to the sound of Michael Jackson’s “Beat it”, seeping out from the cafe.

 

BiH, region, struggle to realise medical tourism potential

While the summer months are the busiest for dental tourism, other holidays also see a significant spike in business, according to Hodzic, who said that not only are the prices attractive to Westerners, but the quality of work is the same as Western Europe.

BiH offers vastly cheaper dental services — also beating out Croatia and Serbia, two other dental tourism hubs. Prices for dental procedures and lab work in Germany, for instance, are five times higher than in BiH, while in Spain, prices are nearly three times the amount.

“We use the same materials and have the same standards as Western Europe,” Hodzic said, “and we keep abreast of all the newest technologies and ensure that our staff receive continual training in those technologies.”

Hodzic pointed out, however, that 90% of the country’s dental tourists are actually diaspora, returning home to take advantage of the low prices.

“BiH has still not become a hotspot for dental tourism outside of the diaspora,” she told SETimes.

Daily Round Up

My fight may be hopeless, but it is as necessary as ever

Thus has this infectious idiocy spread through the political community to which I belong. The people I criticise here rightly contend that western governments and much of the western media ignore or excuse atrocities committed by the United States and its allies, while magnifying those committed by forces deemed hostile. But they then appear to create a mirror image of this one-sided narrative, minimising the horrors committed by forces considered hostile to the US and its allies.

Bosnian Serbs jailed for Srebrenica warehouse killings

Two former Bosnian Serb police chiefs were jailed for 35 and 30 years on Friday for the killing of 1,000 Muslim men at a warehouse near the town of Srebrenica in July 1995, part of the worst massacre in Europe since World War Two.

International monitors to pull out of Bosnia’s Brcko 

International monitors decided Wednesday to pull out of the sensitive Bosnian town of Brcko, whose neutral status has been a source of tensions in the ethnically-divided Balkan state.

Ratko Mladic’s trial continues on 25 June 2012 

The first witnesses at the trial of Ratko Mladic, former commander of the VRS Main Staff, will appear in court on 25 June 2012, the Trial Chamber ordered in its decision. The prosecution would continue its case until the three-week summer recess which begins on 20 July.

Bosnian MPs vote to cut their own salaries 

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed the 2012 budget on May 24 and also approved a decision to cut public servants’ salaries, including their own, by 4.5 percent

Tito’s followers mark his birthday 

Despite the rain, communist era Yugoslav flags flew as the sounds of the traditional tune ‘Druze Tito Mi Ti Se Kunemo’ [Comrade Tito, We Pledge Our Allegiance] blared over loudspeakers. Hundreds of people from all over the Balkans cheerfully joined in the celebration, with many wearing badges and shirts with Tito’s portrait.

Minnesota couple can’t forget brutal Bosnian war 

He’s a Croatian Roman Catholic. His wife’s a Muslim. Ah yes, love. It often has a way of overcoming and welding differences into an unbreakable human bond that not even hate or depraved inhumanity can sever.

So forgive Milutin and Seima Dimac of Coon Rapids, married 39 years now, if they celebrated a bit the capture last year of former Serbian army senior general Ratko Mladic after more than 15 years on the lam. Forgive them if their thoughts this past week were distracted a bit by the goings on inside a packed courtroom in the Netherlands where the so called “Butcher of Bosnia” finally stood trial.

Rudy Giuliani hits a new low: consulting for Serbian nationalists

Fast-forward 13 years, nearly to the day, and there was Rudy Giuliani last month in Belgrade, the city whose submission he called for from a New York City synagogue. Except this time, he was campaigning for some of the country’s most prominent nationalists, people once allied with Slobodan Milosevic who have lauded Serbian war criminals.

 

Daily Round Up

Children of Sarajevo (review of the movie “Djeca”)

A broken family serves as a metaphor for a damaged society in”Children of Sarajevo,” the ambitious second feature from Bosnian helmer-writer Aida Begic, whose  underlying theme here is the country’s lost moral compass as it remains trapped in a torturously slow transition from a state of war. Slated to open the Sarajevo fest in July, this tale of two orphaned siblings eschews a traditional narrative arc, providing instead a slice of life at a particular moment in time. Potent drama is more accessible than Begic’s debut “Snow,” and should reach a larger, albeit still niche, arthouse audience.

Bosnia takes small step in motorway construction 

The Turkish company Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret will build five kilometres of Corridor 5c, the projected Bosnia and Herzegovina motorway network, according to an agreement signed by company director Kemal Unluer on May 21 in Sarajevo. The agreement is with the Federation Motorway public corporation.

UN Prosecutor: Mladic trial should start in weeks 

The chief U.N. prosecutor for the former Yugoslavia said Tuesday that evidence errors that postponed the trial of Ratko Mladic are of “limited” impact and do not warrant a delay of six months as sought by the defense.

 

Daily Round Up

Sarajevo with tears: another walk down Logavina Street

Barbara Demick, now perhaps best known for her groundbreaking book on North Korea, “Nothing to Envy,” was a correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer during the siege. She and photographer John Costello moved into Sarajevo and filed a series of dispatches from one six-block-long stretch of the city called Logavina Street. About 240 families — Muslims, Christians, Serbs and Croats — had lived easily together on this street unified by their common identity as Sarajevans until the war tore that apart.

Bosnians divided over Mladic trial  

Bosnians have been glued to live broadcasts of the genocide trial of Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic for two days, but while members of the country’s Serb community applaud and cheer the 70-year-old, Bosniak and Croat victims say his arrogance has opened old wounds.

The day I met Mladic

It was June 1992 and you could stand at a Serb gun position on Trebevic Mountain on the south side of Sarajevo and gaze down at the city beneath you, shimmering in the haze of high summer. The streets were laid out like a map at your feet. You could see how easy it was for the gunmen to pick a target.

“Can you hit the Holiday Inn from here?” I asked one machine gunner. (The hotel would later house the foreign press corps; the BBC would set up its office there later that summer. It looked dangerously exposed to me). “Ha!” he laughed. “Hit the Holiday Inn? Choose a window!”

 Ratko Mladic goes on trial for genocide

The trial of General Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army chief accused of orchestrating war crimes and a campaign of genocide, has begun at a special UN court at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia made their opening statements against Mladic on Wednesday almost a year after his arrest in Serbia and subsequent deportation after years on the run.

Mladic is accused of 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including orchestrating the week-long massacre of over 7,000 Muslim boys and men at Srebrenica in 1995 during the Bosnian war.

Prosecutor Dermot Groome said the prosecution would present evidence showing “beyond a reasonable doubt the hand of Mr. Mladic in each of these crimes”.

Mladic taunts survivors at start of genocide trial 

Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic made a throat-slitting gesture to a woman who lost her son, husband and brothers in the Srebenica massacre at the start of his trial on Wednesday for some of the worst atrocities in Europe since World War Two.

Mladic trial delayed because of evidence issues 

An apparent clerical error prompted judges to postpone the long-awaited war crimes trial of former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic on Thursday, possibly for months.

The delay cast a shadow over one of the court’s biggest cases — and over the reputation of the court itself, where most prominent trials have proceeded at a snail’s pace, frustrating many victims.

It also highlighted problems faced by international tribunals in prosecuting sweeping indictments covering allegations of atrocities spanning years in countries far from the courts where defendants face justice.

Bosnia is learning wrong counterterrorism lessons 

Given Bosnia’s aspirations to EU and NATO membership, it is only natural that it sometimes looks to Europe and the US as a model.

But when it comes to combating terrorism, the country seems to be learning the wrong lessons – emphasizing national security at the expense of human rights and the rule of law.

Imad Al Husin is a case in point. Al Husin has been in detention in Bosnia since 2008 on suspicion of terrorism. He has never been charged with a crime. The efforts by the Bosnian government to expel him to Syria have been definitively blocked by the European Court of Human Rights. Yet he remains in detention.

From Bosnia to BG

For most Bosnian-Americans who live in Bowling Green, making the transition to a new country was anything but easy.

Families such as the Varajics, who own A Taste of Europe restaurant downtown on State Street, took a leap of faith when they began calling Bowling Green their permanent home in 1998. The Varajic family, along with hundreds of others, left their native country, Bosnia-Herzegovina, with hopes of a more promising future after an ethnic dispute erupted between the Serbs, Bosnians and Croatians, which lead to the worst war atrocity in Europe since World War II.

The first Bosnian family settled in Bowling Green on Jan. 1, 1993, and since then a total of 2,226 Bosnian people have sought refugee resettlement services from the Bowling Green International Center, not counting secondary migrants, who settled in Bowling Green later without help from the International Center, said Tatiana Sahanic, director of the center’s refugee program.

World Bank to help Bosnia SME’s with $120mn loan 

The World Bank has approved an additional $120 million loan to help small and mid-sized Bosnian businesses get much-needed funding, on top of an earlier $70 million two-year loan that has helped create 1,120 new jobs, the bank said on Friday.

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