Self-declared Guardians of Our Lives
by Nagorka IDRIZOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, June 2, 2000
Primary school "November 25" in Velika Kladusa is well known to the wider public because of violations of children's rights by a group of teachers employed by the school. The children are discriminated because or political views of their parents - people who are members of sympathizers of parties that oppose the largest Bosniak political organization, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA). The discrimination was spotted earlier, in the distribution of humanitarian aid, and some cases of physical punishment of pupils have also been reported. The report of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in B-H states that the religious instruction teacher, Nurka Behric, and the computer science teacher, Sakib Selimovic, expelled from their classes Ervin Mujkic, Nijaz Dizdarevic, Aldin Kendic, and Armel Karajic, because they were wearing shirts or T-shirts with short sleeves and short trousers. Namely, during prayers or while spending time in the mosque Muslims are, among other, not allowed to display their knees and elbows. However, that religious rule cannot in any case be applied in public schools. And thus, the above mentioned teachers who teach pupils from the fifth to the eight grade are pressuring pupils and punishing them due to willfulness, and insolent usurpation of non-existent rights and, or course, intolerance that cannot stand anything different. Therefore, these self-declared masters of our lives, thoughts, and now even fashion sense, are increasingly rough in their actions, but also increasingly more frequently cut the thin line connecting us with Europe. Because, we do not need Europe, we have our own tradition. And while daily we can read in newspaper statements of various low, mid-level and senior officials that they advocate and support multiethnicity and the Dayton agreement, we can see that in practice there is no such thing. And, naturally, then there is no accountability. Self-proclaimed religious authorities, of whom there are quite a few in the provinces, and which are also aggressive, but somewhat quieter, in the capital, have taken control of legislative authorities. Consequently in the Una-Sana canton religious instruction is a mandatory subject in public schools which violates fundamental right to religious freedom (or lack of religious beliefs), as far as the right to be different is concerned. Having taken on themselves that "unrewarding role" of being some sort of "vox populi" i.e. the voice of "conscience" in those small towns, to every attempt to make individual choice they grind their teeth because their hope that everyone will live based on only one recipe is disappearing, unanimity is brought into question, and the likelihood of a "moral renewal" is decreasing. Everyone sane must wonder what all those ministers, local and federal, are doing in this case. And the authorities do not read; they feed themselves on "phantoms" and always have someone who is in charge of interpreting, always have some spokesperson who will explain the degree of endangerment and who will exactly because of that try to justify that superstition and aggressive behavior that denies the right to be different. In all of this the most surprising thing is that all those interpretations imply that everything that is not telepathically identical to their views is dangerous, because who gives anyone the right to think differently, so that anything different is "base" and "offensive". And when someone ambitious tries to analyze that group of "defamers" and slanderers he comes into danger of, although without mentioning their names, becoming someone who creates inimical atmosphere and the target of attacks from the headquarters of "nationally aware" and naturally "historically responsible" forces. That "fire brigade" naturally, does not feel any need to explain the right to judge others. This whole article will not make any sense if it does not inspire the thought that will clear paths for "some new kids" and open possibilities to choose whether they will believe or not, in what sort of society they will live, whether they will keep traditions or will try to keep up with their generation in Europe... For starters, it would be helpful if the aggressive teachers in Kladusa allowed them to wear short trousers during summer. Otherwise, we shall have Small Kladusa and backward Bosnia.
Stanko Sopta Blesses Cross on Hum
How Mostar Again Became Croat City
by Senka KURTOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, June 19, 2000
When last week we wrote about the cross growing above Mostar, on the occasion of the two thousand years since the birth of Jesus Christ, we deliberately bypassed the politicians. We did not want to get them involved in the story about the cross on the top of the Hum hill, from where this city has been murdered for years, as residents of Mostar living on both sides of the Neretva river admit. We accepted explanations coming from the church, that the 33 meters [100 feet] tall cross is nothing but a Christian symbol erected in gratitude to the homeland and that it had nothing to do with politics. "This cross has absolutely nothing to do with politics, there is no politics there. This is merely a religious object honoring the jubilee year, the year of forgiveness," we heard last year from a clerk of the Catholic Church in Mostar. But, we found out from the witnesses and the people who observed the last week's event that it wasn't exactly like that. On Sunday a mass was held on the Hum hill above Mostar. The occasion was solemn - the cross was blessed, together with the corner stone of a small chapel of Triune God, that will be built there.
Never Again Thunder of Tanks and Cannons
And as suits the occasion, religious officials spoke at the mass. Mostar-Duvno Bishop Ratko Peric went first and said: "Let the thunder of tanks and cannons never again be heard from Hum." He added that 14 stations of the cross on Hum symbolize 14 centuries of Croat presence in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Bishop Peric called in his sermon on all nations in Bosnia-Hercegovina to live in peace and set weapons aside for all times. He mentioned that the cross, erected on Hum "would spread fruit of peace to all sides of the world". However, as the Croatian Radio of Herceg-Bosna, which broadcast the whole ceremony, reported, the ceremony was also characterized by secular, sometimes very base, and in no way spiritual messages. One guesses that that is the difference between secular and spiritual. Consequently, that is frequently the difference between religious and political messages. And that is why it is impossible to avoid mentioning politicians in this story. Regardless of how hard we tried. According to the broadcast of Radio Herceg-Bosna, Stanko Sopta, a General of the HVO, also made an appearance in front of the cross. This time (as on many occasions in the past) he was, as was announced, a personal representative of the member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Ante Jelavic. General Sopta, a soldier from head to toe, well-known to local and especially to the foreign officials as a "disobedient" individual, addressed the gathering as the residents of "the Croatian capital Mostar"(?!). Lest there be confusion, he was referring to the same Mostar that, thanks to the efforts of two leaders (Tomic and Orucevic), the impulse of the international community, and above all good will of the residents of this city once upon the time divided by an impassable borderline, is trying to start some new life. Sopta had, it must be admitted, a well-prepared speech. Especially for this occasion. After emphasizing the importance of the cross, he did not forget to clarify why Hum exactly, why a hill above Mostar, was chosen for a symbol of Christianity, hope, faith...
Capital of Disobedient General
"...However, the Croatian people, under its cross, always remained on the path towards resurrection. On the ancient Hum, the hill of Croatian land of Hum [Hercegovina], which watches all four sides of the world, protects the Neretva river which cools it down, protects Mostar established by Cimo and Nebojsa, protects shards of bloody history, it has been watching all these centuries how his nests are destroyed and his children scattered around; today, on this hill a cross stands, as a sign of victory...," said Sopta. He reminded that less than a decade ago at the spot where the cross stands today "Chetniks and YPA reservists built bunkers," in addition to "many other enemies that wanted to destroy the Croatian nation". Exactly on that spot of "Croat soil in Hercegovina". "We captured all of those bunkers, chased away all of our enemies. The last time this was done in a glorious and dignified manner was by Croatian soldiers of the HVO of Herceg-Bosna in June 1992, and their deed was like a silent promise: never again bunkers on Hum," said Stanko Sopta. And, that is as far as his memory went on Sunday, until "June 1992", and the promise that there would never again be bunkers on Hum. Was that promise fulfilled or did General Sopta forget that in 1993, exactly from Hum, it does not really matter whether from bunkers, Mostar was shelled and destroyed? More precisely, a part of the city was destroyed. But, the General forgot about that. He probably could not remember everything, as in his speech he recalled that the foundations of the cross on Hum contain all the Croat ancestors, even those who "with Herceg Stjepan fought against Turkish conquerors". Thus spoke General Stanko Sopta. He said he spoke on behalf of Ante Jelavic. On behalf of politics, therefore. And somewhat on behalf of his religion. This religion, God is his witness, claims that it is possible to sin by thought, word, deed, and omission. We wanted to this time, very deliberately, ask Ante Jelavic all sorts of things about the speech of his personal envoy. Just enough to clarify a few things about "the Croatian capital Mostar". Unfortunately, we failed. We did not get an answer. That is our sin.
Hague Knows Who Demanded From me to Get Rid of Two Boys, Witnesses of Crime in Grabovica
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, January 4, 2000
"It is not true that I denied the statement given to Oslobodjenje," Ramiz Delalic Celo told us yesterday. A day earlier he, while talking in our offices about the crime in Grabovica, when 32 Croatian civilians were massacred, also said that "the murderer of the family of surviving boys is now a Police inspector in Sarajevo".
In a short statement provided by the Sarajevo Police, it is claimed that "in an interview with Police Ramiz Delalic stated that the inspector does not work for the Sarajevo Canton Police" and that "his statement will be sent to the prosecutor for further processing."
Delalic denied that: "Let them show both to me and to you the statement that I allegedly gave. They cannot, because there is no such statement." Delalic explained that on Thursday night, a few minutes before midnight, he was summoned to the Police to report the following day. "I showed up today (Friday) at about ten in the morning and talked, not with policemen, as the statement says, but with one policemen, named Eso, Enes. He explained that I had been summoned in connection with the statement given to Oslobodjenje ("The murderer of the family of surviving boys is now a Police inspector in Sarajevo"). I told him that I could confirm that statement.
Delalic claimed that then the policemen said: "According to our information, the murderer is a student of third or fourth year of the crime prevention school, I do not remember exactly." (!!!) "I repeated that from what I knew, the murderer worked for the Police..."
Delalic revealed to us the details of how he came to that conclusion. "When a month ago I talked to a Hague investigator, he told me that. I also heard that from Nihad Vlahovljak, who was the commander of the platoon whose member the suspect was. I was then informed that Vlahovljak, facing accusations against himself, found two witnesses of the crime against the family of the surviving boys, also soldiers from the Ninth Mountain Brigade."
They, continued Delalic, testified in front of the Hague investigators about the suspect, including that he took a ring off the finger of the murdered mother of the boys. Therefore, neither did I say anything to the Hague investigators that they hadn't already known, nor was I there when the crime was committed, and consequently cannot testify. I also did not make it up that the suspect works for the Police."
Delalic said that yesterday, in the Police, the policeman demanded from him to reveal the name of the suspect. "I refused. I am obliged to keep quiet due to my cooperation with the Hague Tribunal. I suggested to the policeman to contact the Hague investigators. But after mere mention of the Tribunal, the conversation was stopped," said Delalic, adding that he did not spend more then several minutes in the Police station, and that, when they told him that he was free to go, he asked whether a statement would be made regarding their conversation.
"I wanted to read and sign the statement. He replied, 'no, no, this is only an informal talk. If necessary, we shall call you,'" claimed Delalic, emphasizing that since Thursday, when the text in Oslobodjenje was published, he had received numerous phone threats: "All sorts of things, they even made death threats."
"Most of anonymous voices made threats in connection with my mention of Zulfikar Alispago Zuka," says Delalic, adding: "Obviously, those 'voices' did not read the article carefully. I did not accuse anyone by name, not even the mentioned Alispago, who was my superior while my unit was in the Jablanica region. Then, I emphasized, as I do again, that Alispago, as well as Sefer Halilovic, and Rasim Dalilovic share responsibility because of their command posts. I neither think, nor did I say, that they ordered the crime. By the way, I found it very interesting that yesterday Dnevni Avaz published a testimony of an 'anonymous soldier' who says that he guarded the boys and was given orders to keep my men away from them. Even a fool would realize that that was published in order to discredit me. But, I do not care about that. I informed everyone interested that I received even a written document thanking me for my cooperation with the Tribunal, especially regarding the documentation I gave them."
Delalic claimed that the Hague Tribunal had received from him the original statement given by the two surviving boys who today, according to some sources, live in western Mostar. He added that their statement, which he personally took at the time, mentions that he lined up his unit and asked the boys to point out the murderers.
"They did not do that. Of course, I do not know whether they were scared or really did not recognize them," emphasizes Delalic repeating that he was ordered to "get rid" of the boys. "I repeat this a thousandth time, the Hague investigators know who ordered that the boys be 'removed', and who witnessed that. I am not afraid of the Hague, I offered myself to testify at the Hague. I did not want to discuss this in the public. I have done that seldom, everyone knows that, because I do not want to justify myself to anyone for something that has nothing to do with me. I cooperate with the Tribunal because the truth will help me... Consequently, I am not afraid of murder threats..."
Mujahedeen Attacked Serbs
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, October 10, 2000
Yesterday in Bocinja Mojahedeen greeted about 120 Serbs who had come to visit their homes as their true enemies.
After Serbs took a look at their half destroyed houses, Mojahedeen tried to run over three Serbs with a truck, then they attacked a group of returnees and tried to flip over a table at which they were having a lunch; they also verbally intimidated and insulted the Serbs. All of this took place in presence of 30 policemen working for the Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina Police.
Bocinja was also visited by Nijaz Softic, the Maglaj Police Chief. He talked to Mojahedeen, but did not address the Serbs, who want to return to their pre-war homes with a single word.
"The violence in Bocinja continues. They now have nothing to destroy apart from the houses in which they currently live. In front of the policemen Mojahedeen devastated tens of houses that were absolutely livable and because of that we shall demand from the High Representative to dismiss the Maglaj Police Chief," says Bozo Jovanovic, the president of the Association for the Return to Bocinja.
According to Jovanovic, many houses, including his, were destroyed in the last four days. His house is located only 30 meters [90 feet] from the Police Station in Bocinja.
Yesterday was the deadline given by the municipal authorities in Maglaj for the last eviction in Bocinja. However, 26 Mojahedeen families still live in the village.
"Bocinja has seemingly been evacuated, but that is not true. There are currently seven Mojahedeen families with bought households, and 19 families have the right to alternative accommodation. Out of that number, 11 families are of Arab origin," emphasizes Stanislav Momirovic, from the municipal Office for Return.
"We are not very impressed with today's visit. You saw yourself what was going on. You see how much security there is, and can imagine what would happen to us if we came here on our own," adds Momirovic.
Ljubo Djurkovic, the president of the Association for the Return of Serbs to Maglaj, did not hide his disappointment with the outcome of the yesterday's visit to Bocinja.
"I am extremely disappointed. I do not understand that someone could live in those houses, and then upon moving out take away windows, doors, and roof tiles and beams.
"The situation we encountered is catastrophic, but regardless, there is a lot of interest in return and we shall not give up. Now the situation is very complicated because we have to wait for the departure of the remaining Mojahedeen, and at the same time seek donors to repair the houses that were damaged in the presence of the Maglaj Police," says Djurkovic.
Many of Serbs who yesterday visited Bocinja are determined to return. For example, Stojka Zekic, although her house is totally devastated, wants to return to Bocinja.
"Just look at this, what can I tell you? They took away doors, window frames, floors, even pulled all the electrical cables from the walls," she says through tears. One of the few houses that haven't been destroyed belongs to Ms. Radmila Jovanovic.
I went with her to take a look at her house, but we were halted by a hysterical scream of a local Mojahedeen: "Animals, stay out of there!" Radmila was petrified with fear, and I responded in the same style. A policeman hurried over, but the Mojahedeen in the meantime managed to spew out many ugly words of the sort that an uncivilized man can tell to a woman. Radmila managed to enter her front yard but was not allowed to step on the steps leading to her door. At the top of the stairs stood a woman whose face we could not see because of her hijab [Islamic veil].
Yesterday in Bocinja, one could see many more Arabs than domestic Mojahedeen. Their behavior was a proof that they fear that they have been left to their own devices.
Lamb for Policemen
At the same time it was obvious that the policemen still supported the Mojahedeen. We saw a lamb that was being prepared for a spit, and which was most likely the reward for the policemen for their indifferent attitude in Bocinja. Even though Ayman Ghraibeh, the chief of the UNHCR field office in Zenica, commended the municipal authorities in Maglaj for setting up two checkpoints for the confiscation of the stolen construction material, the impression yesterday in Bocinja was that nothing was done to prevent the devastation of the houses into which the returnees could have immediately moved in.
Perhaps that suits someone after all. The winter is coming and even if a donor is not found quickly, it is questionable whether it will be possible to repair the houses before the outset of cold weather. And if the houses are not repaired before winter, will the newly found determination of the expelled Serbs last beyond the cold winter?
That will obviously depend on many factors, as the Association of Expelled Serbs from Maglaj yesterday made the decision to give another 30 days to the Federation and local authorities in Maglaj to evict the remaining Mojahedeen from Bocinja. Otherwise, it is very likely that the return of 6,000 Serbs to the Ozren Mountain region will fail.
Translated on March 12, 2001