Friday, July 25, 2008

Karadzic's Destruction of Bosnia Lasts Long After War

Imagine this is your church.

The Ferhadija Mosque, in Banja Luka, Bosnia-Hercegovina (BiH) was built in the 16th century. Until May 7, 1993, the mosque served as a center of faith and community for hundreds of Bosnian Muslims in Banja Luka, the second largest city in BiH.

This is your church now.
This is a photograph of the Ferhadija Mosque I took during the summer of 2001. On May 7, 1993, the mosque was destroyed by Bosnian Serbs who'd been whipped into a frenzy by war criminal Radovan Karadzic. Between April and September of 1993, in an effort to rid their city of Muslims, Bosnian Serbs destroyed every mosque in Banja Luka (16 mosques dating back to medieval Europe). In 1991, there were over 82,000 non-Serbs in Banja Luka. Only 15,000 non-Serbs live there now. During the war, Serbs destroyed numerous mosques and Catholic churches across Bosnia.

Even in June, 2001, 400 hundred policemen were needed, as security, at the corner stone laying ceremony to begin rebuilding the Ferhadija Mosque. The corner stone was immediately taken away and stored. Only in 2007 did the actual reconstruction begin.
Six years after the war ended with the Dayton Peace Accords, Sarajevo still smelled of smoke and the Parliament Building still looked like it was about to fall down.

Muslims, I talked to Banja Luka were sick of the war and the Serbs were tired of being the bad guys.

I worked with Terra, a legal-aid firm helping with property returns thru the Office of the High Representative and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the staff were Bosnian Serbs. I got the sense that many were embarrassed by the actions of their countrymen; that they could be conned into trying to cleanse parts of Bosnia of their Muslim and Croat minorities.

This was the war that coined the term "ethnic cleansing." And, it wasn't just Bosnian Serbs. President Franjo Tuđman tried to eliminate Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia. He died before he could be indicted.

Radovan Karadzic, along with General Ratko Mladic, have been hidden from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for the past 13 years. In order to 'cleanse' the country, these guys, with their goons, convinced Bosnian Serbs that their Muslim or Croat neighbours had already committed atrocities and were about to attack them. Serbs would then 'defend' themselves by attacking their neighbors, starting a village war, and justifying ethnic cleansing.

Karadzic and Mladic opened concentration and rape camps and wiped out entire villages. Just before the end of the war, they executed over 8,000 men and boys in Srebinica, nearly wiping the village off the map.

Bosnia is a beautiful country, filled with religious tolerance; one of the few countries where most villages have Catholic and Orthodox spires and Islamic minarets. Sarajevo is an eclectic mix of religious temples:

The arrest of the architect of the of Bosnian war, Radovan Karadzic, is promising signal for the future of this country and its Balkan sisters, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Kosovo.

Serbianna News Post reports that Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb autonomous region) Prime Minister Milorad Dodik recently said “Radovan Karadzic is not Republika Srpska. It is not his creation but the creation of its people.”

I'm sure the Bosnian Serbs I met are eager to separate themselves from the days of Radovan Karadzic. Hopefully, all of Bosnia is ready to retake its mantel as a home for Muslims, Serbs, and Croats.


RockStories said...

Thanks for sharing your personal observations. It is easy to think of these events as remote, or something that happened a relatively long time ago and forget about the impact ripples on.

Anonymous said...

Tiffany pointed this post out to me. Thank you for writing it. The use of before and after photographs for the Mosque are particularly effective. There were other priceless cultural artifacts destroyed as well in the effort to cleanse this land not only of certain people, but also their centuries-old past. Shameful.

j.c. said...

This is an awesome post. I am from Bosnia, a Bosnian, and I can confirm all things mentioned here as true and written very well.