used without permission, for "fair use" only

Humane Transfer of Population

Dani, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, January 18 1999

by Hasan Hadzic

Most of us, mothers and wives of Srebrenica shehids [martyr for Islam], wanted to mark the third anniversary of the tragedy with another large and dignified demonstration. We wanted to urge the world public with our tears to finally do something to shed some light on the fate of the missing. However, the authorities in Sarajevo forced us to perform a collective dzenaza [Islamic burial rite] in Staric near Kladanj. If they wanted to remove us from Tuzla or Sarajevo at any cost, why wasn't the dzenaza performed in Baljkovica, in the Sapna municipality, where the Serb lines were broken and where, after the breach had been closed, about three thousand men died. Izetbegovic's team had in all of that full support from Srebrenica mayor Malkic. Malkic will be rewarded with new privileges for his good services. Nobody cares that the people from Srebrenica were in minority at the dzenaza and that we experienced the ceremony as an attempt of our authorities to once for all sweep the Srebrenica tragedy under a carpet."

These thoughts of Fadila Mujic, until recently the president of the Organization of Shehid Families from Srebrenica, are the best illustration of the haste with which the current authorities, using any means available, are trying to get rid of the "burden" called Srebrenica. By the way, Fadila was dismissed from the leadership of the mentioned civic organization in the harshest possible way by Srebrenica mayor Abdulrahman Malkic and president of the municipal SDA organization Hasan Becirevic. She could not be forgiven for allegedly refusing to "cover" herself and for fighting that, besides the children from Srebrenica, children from other municipalities in east Bosnia whose fathers died in Srebrenica, also get state scholarships, and for meeting with "Chetnik" [derogatory term for Serbs] Beslagic [mayor of Tuzla, leader of Socialdemocrats of Bosnia-Hercegovina and a Bosniak] (according to mayor Malkic). Actually, the key goal of Fadila's sacking was to definitely behead and destroy the organization which has earned certain reputation abroad. It is well known that only disorganized and displaced Srebrenica suits the SDA leadership.

Tired of a Farce

In the political circles from eastern Bosnia, it can be heard that the resourceful leader of SDA in Srebrenica Hasan Becirevic, sensing that the headquarters may like that, has strongly advocated the building of a monumental memorial complex dedicated to the missing in the Srebrenica tragedy well ahead of the commemoration of the third anniversary. The memorial complex was supposed to be built in the mentioned Staric. Had that project been accepted, Becirevic's architectural aspirations would have definitely found an expression in conjunction with the ambitions of several construction companies headed by former and current officials from eastern Bosnia, the same officials who during the building of a refugee settlement funded by the government of the Netherlands committed a huge robbery, as Dani has reported in the past. The new project, at least temporarily, has been derailed by incorrigible Fadil Banjanovic Bracika. He denounced the plan as a new betrayal of Srebrenica and demanded that such a center be built only in Srebrenica and when the inhabitants of the town return to their homes.

However, the refugees from Srebrenica are already tired of the farce in connection with the implementation of the election results in the Srebrenica municipality. The charade was started by the Serb authorities, and strongly supported by the coalition for the United and Democratic Bosnia-Hercegovina (CD BiH), whose representatives were (it seems once for all) taken out of Srebrenica by Halid Genjac. The International Community was relieved. It supposedly tried something and then it freed itself from the Srebrenica nightmare for an indeterminate time.

Fading chances for return, on the one, and increasingly more difficult refugee status in the Federation on the other hand, have resulted in the continuous emigration of the refugees from Srebrenica from Bosnia-Hercegovina. If it does not know what to do with Srebrenica, the International Community knows very well what to do with its people, and they have priority in emigration to European and other countries.

Departures Through Smugglers' Channels

Of course, it hasn't occurred to anyone to keep track of emigrants from Srebrenica, but the current estimate is 4,000 to 5,000 persons. It is evident that the process of emigration is picking up. After all the failed hopes and expectations, almost totally unemployed and evicted from temporary accommodations, the refugees from Srebrenica see only one solution: go as far away as possible from Bosnia.

Avdo Smajlovic has already visited the Dutch embassy with the delegation of the disabled war veterans from the Srebrenica municipality. They requested support for the collective emigration of about 450 disabled war veterans and their families. They were told in the embassy that the government of the Netherlands has so far donated so much money, reserved for the assistance to the refugees from Srebrenica, that a small town could have been build with that money and used to accommodate the disabled war veterans, their families and many more. The definite reply to this request is not known yet, although it is well known that the disabled are not exactly desirable immigrants.

The gradual abolishment of the institutions of the Srebrenica municipality in exile is also spreading fear among the refugees. The existence of these institutions provided at least some material and, above all, psychological security. The refugees from Srebrenica are aware that with the administrative abolishment of the name of Srebrenica, they will soon loose the image of a victim, which has so far at least somewhat eased the survival of thousands of decimated families from Srebrenica. In the past, they saw only a minute portion of the funds donated for their benefit. What will then happen in the future?

Besides, the people of Srebrenica are proud and do not intend to live the rest of their lives on anyone's charity. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that these unlucky individuals are simply besieging foreign embassies, seeking immigrant visas and a minimum of dignified life. Smuggler's channels for illegal "export" via Italy and Switzerland are also working overtime to great pleasure of Poplasen and Westendorp. Frankly, Alija also does not mind.

Nesib Buric, Deputy Mayor for Social Security of War Veterans and Disabled Persons in Srebrenica

Izetbegovic, Help us to Emigrate

DANI: Mr. Buric, the pretext for this interview is the recent demand by Srebrenica disabled war veterans for collective emigration to the Netherlands or other western European countries. What are the reasons for such dissatisfaction?

The reasons are daily troubles in connection with mere survival, which are especially pronounced among the refugees, and especially among the disabled. The lack of security regarding the accommodations is causing a real drama, because the number of evictions has increased. Out of 452 disabled war veterans from Srebrenica, only three of them have relatively secure temporary accommodation, while the rest are illegally living in houses and cellars and are scared to death that the owners will "legally" throw them out on the street.

The top officials in this country have been saying stubbornly that war veterans and refugees will be protected from evictions. In the meantime, even the international officials have been saying that an alternative accommodation must be found for those who are about to be evicted. Having that in mind, wouldn't you say that your fears are baseless?

Not at all. You should tell to those top officials, and especially presidency member Izetbegovic, prime minister Bicakcic and general Rasim Delic that Nesib Buric has been evicted from an apartment in Otes, in Sarajevo, with a court verdict. I am 100 percent disabled, a brother of a shehid. I was evicted with my family, mother and mother-in-law, who is also from a shehid family. Also tell them that I didn't force my way into that apartment, but that I entered based on the agreement between the organization of disabled war veterans from Srebrenica and Bratunac and the Ilidza municipality for the provision of 100 apartments for our disabled veterans.

Whose apartment was that? Has the owner returned to Sarajevo?

It was a Serb apartment, but the owner allegedly sold it in Sweden to a certain Redza Subasic. He hasn't returned from Sweden but the suit was conducted on his behalf by lawyer Sadik Hota. I asked him and judge Indira Jahic whether it is just to throw out a disabled war veteran from an apartment because of a man who has spent six years in Sweden and still does not intend to return. I also asked them whether they thought a Serb lawyer and a judge would represent in Bijeljina in the same way someone who is trying to evict a Serb war veteran. The judge gave me a cynical chuckle and the lawyer responded: "I work for money!" Don't forget that I am not the only evicted disabled veteran. There are many more cases in the procedure.

What about war veteran organizations? Have you contacted them?

I complained to the organization of disabled war veterans in Ilidza but they told me: "You are not under our jurisdiction". There you go! I am not in their care, but on May 8 1992, with 20 guys I was the first Bosniak to break through to the Drina river [on the border with Serbia]. In my battalion, out of 320 soldiers, 280 died during the war. What did we fight for? I know that they are now trying to humiliate people from Srebrenica and spread rumors that we supposedly did not fight and were slain while running away from Srebrenica. No one can deny that in the Srebrenica municipality there are 2,000 buried fighters. No one can deny that we set up a large free territory. However, without assistance from outside we could not hold out for long surrounded by the enemy. You can write that I absolutely support the statement by Hakija Meholjic that we were betrayed. Why does not someone refute his assertions with arguments? Instead they are using slander and saying that Hakija was like this and like that. Hakija was among the first people in Srebrenica to pick up a rifle and work on the organization of the resistance. Therefore, he has the right to speak up. Ibran Mustafic and those women do not have the right to make lists for the Hague Tribunal. They do not have any evidence for that. In Srebrenica, Ibran refused to fight and lead a brigade, but turned to his prewar flirt with politics. As far as Hakija is concerned, you can write that every single child from Srebrenica agrees with his statement.

If you agree with Meholjic's assertions, which are highly critical of the SDA leadership, how come you gave your votes to SDA?

There was a slightly retarded woman from Srebrenica, named Ajka. We had a kind of a cruel joke that in the local elections even Ajka could win, as long as she was running on the SDA list. The names are not important. Really, I do not support any specific party, but I know that the majority of the refugees from Srebrenica, as if out of spite, voted for SDA. They call SDA the "peasant party".

But here you go, they did not have much luck with SDA. You state that the refugees are dissatisfied with numerous actions of the current authorities. Isn't that at least somewhat contradictory? How would the people from Srebrenica vote now?

I do not know what would have happened after the abolishment of the municipal authorities in exile and the establishment of some sort of an office. I said to mayor Malkic and many others that because of that verdict to our boys in Bijeljina we should boycott all elections in the future. I also suggested that we boycott all international organizations. Also, here, if there were social disturbances, you could be certain that the people from Srebrenica would join, and it should not be dismissed that all of them have weapons and know how to use them. As well as other Bosniaks from the Drina river valley. All of us are so dissatisfied that we cannot stand it any more.

What hurts the most?

Except for a few hundred people with higher education, all of us are unemployed. Even our officers are now dismissed from the Federation Army. Somehow, even there, are boys are not desirable. Simply, there is no place where people from Srebrenica can settle down. Those who are still in the Army do not stand a chance to be promoted. There is an unofficial ban on promotions of officers from Srebrenica. All of them, starting with Naser [Orlic] who honorably led us and whom we will always trust, mostly still have the same rank they had in Srebrenica. My friend Zaim Civic had in that Army [Yugoslav Peoples Army] the rank of a lieutenant colonel. He immediately joined the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina, on the Igman mountain, but he was demoted to the rank of a major. Our officers are openly told that they cannot advance because they are from Srebrenica. It is not surprising that even they are leaving Bosnia in increasing numbers. A wartime truck driver from Sandzak [region in Serbia with large Bosniak population] can be a major or a colonel. I want to add that all of this also applies to some guys from Bratunac. We shared the same fate in war and peace.

It is hard to find any favorable statements about your municipal leadership. What do you think about that?

I think that the people went too far in their criticism. There were many donations, but none of them ended up on the municipal bank accounts. I am a deputy mayor and I know that not even a cent was paid into the municipal bank account. Someone else must have taken the money, either the canton or the state. The municipality did receive two million from the Dutch government, but that was used to repair Serb houses in Vozuca and Ilidza. After all, put anyone in these conditions into mayor's office. What could he do? There's no space here and we are being evicted, and Srebrenica is too far from even an idea of return. I support Fadil Banjanovic on many issues, but I do not support him when he calls on people to stay in Bosnia, because most refugees cannot stand poverty and bitterness anymore. That is reality. I demand from presidency member Izetbegovic and his collaborators to at least help us to collectively emigrate in the near future.

Translated on 3/5/1999