Srebrenica 20 år senare

Srebrenica
Srebrenica

Detta text publicerades på Nyheter 24 i samband minnesstunden för  folkmordet i Srebrenica, 11 juli 2015. Följ länken för att läsa texten på Nyheter 24. 

Den amerikanske författaren och historikernTaylor Branchs bok “The Clinton Tapes” gav en inblick i hur Vita Huset och dess europeiska allierade såg på det pågående folkmordet i Bosnien. I en rad samtal med Branch medgavBill Clinton så tidigt som 1993 att alla försök som hans administration hade gjort för att i alla fall minska vapenembargot mot den bosniska regeringen hade blockerats av USA:s europeiska allierade, främst Frankrike och Storbritannien.

Enligt Clinton så var anledningen till det något som de inte vågade säga rakt ut, nämligen att Bosnien, som hade en muslimsk majoritetsbefolkning helt enkelt “inte hörde hemma” i det “kristna Europa”. Enligt Clinton så hade framförallt François Mitterrand och brittiska diplomater pratat privat om en smärtsam återgång till ett “kristet Europa”. Detta kunde inte sägas öppet, framförallt av världsledare som Mitterrand men förklarar delvis varför det serbiska erövringskriget i Bosnien tolererades.

Det var realpolitik i dess blodigaste form, och det var onekligen smärtsamt och onekligen blodigt. Under det 3,5 år långa kriget så dog drygt 100 000 människor, 81,3 procent av krigets civila offer var bosniaker (bosniska muslimer), och drygt 8 000 människor saknas fortfarande. Enligt UNHCR så tvingades 2,2 miljoner människor på flykt vilket gör det till den största flyktingsvågen i Europa sedan andra världskriget. Enligt Women Under Siege kan mellan 20 000 och 50 000 kvinnor och flickor ha utsatts för olika former av sexuellt våld, och att sexuellt våld användes som vapen i kriget av de serbiska styrkorna.

Men ingenstans var det så smärtsamt som i Srebrenica. Staden hade lyckats överleva en orkan av våld som Ed Vulliamy uttrycker det. En orkan som hade släppts loss över östra Bosnien under början av kriget, då den jugoslaviska armén med hjälp av serbiska säkerhetsstyrkor, paramilitära grupper från Serbien och Bosnien inledde sitt angrepp mot landet. Det som följde var massakrer, våldtäkter, etnisk rensning och förstörelse, hundratals byar brändes ner, städer tömdes på det icke-serbiska befolkning och läger inrättades där offren misshandlades, våldtog och mördades. 8 000 människor mördades under Srebrenicamassakern.

De som lyckades fly våldet nådde till Srebrenica, vars befolkning svällde från 8 000 till 42 000 vettskrämda svältande människor som var avskurna från omvärlden, och enligt de få observatörer som lyckades ta sig dit pågick det ett “folkmord i slowmotion“. Redan såg man vad som skulle komma, men genom en blandning av tur och militär briljans så hade staden och dess befolkning lycktas överleva den våren. Som “skyddad enklav” stod den under FN:s och NATO:s skydd som senare också visade sig falla offer för realpolitiken.

Delvis nya och omskakande detaljer som publicerades nyligen visar att det internationella samfundet visste att serbiska styrkor skulle attackera Srebrenica och vad som skulle ske om staden föll. Men de såg redan i Maj 1995 till att dra bort NATO-skyddet som lämnade befolkningen och de holländska FN-trupperna försvarslösa mot ett serbiskt angrepp. Resultat var det största slakten på europisk mark sedan andra världskriget. En slakt som alla visste skulle komma och som kunde förhindrats.

Den 11 Juli är det 20 år sedan folkmordet och runt om i världen högtidlighölls minnet av Srebrenica. I Sverige pekas folkmordet ut som nationalismens yttersta konsekvens, vilket är helt i sin ordning, Srebrenica och folkmordet i Bosnien som helhet var resultat av dels militant nationalism och ett förverkligande av gamla storserbiska drömmar. Men, medan Srebrenica och Bosnien som helhet tjänar som en varning till andra om vad som kan hända så måste man påpeka att samma ideologi som ledde till folkmordet i Bosnien är långtifrån besegrad och det internationella samfundet är medansvarig för dels folkmordet men också för att samma politik fortfarande håller Bosnien gisslan.

Srebrenica: 20 Years On | Short Documentary

Short documentary about the genocide in Srebrenica by Austrialian journalist Rusty Woodger. In his short doc Woodger points to what can be described as a culture of denial by the local Serbs in and around Srebrenica, above the execuation-sites like the one in Kravica where over 1000 people were executed 13th of July are now completly neglected.

Rusty gave permisson to to uppload his film on my blog. You can find him on twitter: @RIV_RWoodger

Comment by Rusty on why he decided to make this film:

The purpose of the film was to explore how the genocidal events of two decades ago are being acknowledged by the Bosnian Serbs who now dominate the area. Before embarking on the project I did a lot of reading and was stunned to discover some places where mass crimes took place were completely neglected and there was nothing to remember the many victims who were murdered there.

I had to see some of these places with my own eyes and was disappointed to see the things I read had been true.I also saw with my own eyes – and used my camera to document this – the stark difference in how the war is remembered in the Srebrenica region. Bosniak victims are barely acknowledged outside the Potočari cemetery while Bosnian Serb soldiers are remembered with huge Orthodox crosses or monuments. Overall I was disturbed by my visit to Srebrenica but I hope the film will help keep alive the memory of people and historical events which some others are still trying to hide or downplay.

The Truth About “A Town Betrayed”

Srebrenica
Srebrenica

Most people outside of Scandinavia, more precisely Norway and Sweden have never heard of “A Town Betrayed ” a revisionist take on the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it. It first aired in Norway in the spring of 2011 and later in Sweden in fall that same year. On the surface, it looked like a typical Norwegian documentary with high production values packaged as a “new truth” about the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it, however it didn´t take long before most people with basic knowledge of the events in and around Srebrenica and the Bosnian genocide to see that this “new truth”  was in fact old lies and discarded conspiracy theories that the filmmakers Ola Flyum and David Hebdicth had repackaged as a “new truth”.

I have written extensively on the documentary on my blog (1 2 3, in Swedish) along with a long host of others. This list includes some of the most noted experts on the Balkans in Scandinavia. As well as journalists and human rights groups who were exposed to the same type of recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories that the filmmakers were peddling as a “new truth”

However I never considered writing about it in English. I honestly saw no need for it, until now. By the spring of 2012 the documentary had been widely perceived as recycled Serb nationalist propaganda. Swedish journalist, of Croatian origin, Tonchi Percan who had covered the wars in Bosnia and Croatia for Swedish press, wrote several times about the documentary saying that Swedish Television should apologize to the victims and survivors for broadcasting what were essentially discarded Serb nationalist conspiracy theories that had been floating around in the Balkans and had been debunked by amongst other things the court proceedings at ICTY in Hague. Percan compared it to Swedish Television broadcasting a documentary about the 9/11 attacks being a false flag, without showing any actual evidence.

Still, in time of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, the documentary floated up again on twitter, spread by Serb nationalists, propagandists and their sympathizers, including far-right loons, in other words; people like: John R. Schindler.

By the fall of 2011 the documentary had been debunked in Norway and exposed as recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories with one of the journalists working on the documentary, the Bosnian Mirsad Fazlić publicly distancing himself in interviews in Norway and Bosnia from it, saying that he protested in several e-mails to the filmmakers that they were in fact trying to distort the what had happened in Bosnia. According to Fazlić once he saw the finished results of several years of work he was shocked, the documentary was clearly pro-Serbian and in it went out of its way to downplay and shift the blame for the genocide from the Serbs.

The documentary was the first program to be brought down in both the Press Complaints Commission ( PFU ) in the fall of 2011 and the Investigation Committee , the Swedish equivalent of PFU in the spring of 2012. The Norwegian PFU wrote that the documentary leaves out some of the most basic facts about the Bosnian war.

Aage Borchgrevink, the senior advisor at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee wrote back in 2011 that the documentary described the Bosnian war in a way that reminded him of the way Serbian state media used to report from Bosnia when Slobodan Milošević was president.

According to Borchgrevink : ”the documentary was historical revisionism disguised as groundbreaking journalism. Using factually incorrect information, selective use of sources, fringe experts and biased portrayals of events, NRK had described the genocide in Srebrenica the same way Serbian state media had reported from Bosnia when Slobodan Milošević was president. Ratko Mladić, the general indicted for genocide is portrayed as a decent soldier while Izetbegović who didn´t bother answering Srebrenica´s calls for help is responsible.”

Borchgrevink also pointed to the fact that the Bosnian Army´s attack on Kravica in January 1993 is described as a “massacre” in the documentary, however the ICTY cleared the Bosnian commander Naser Orić of any wrongdoing during the attack. Several civilians were killed in the attack. Though most of those killed were Serb soldiers and the village of Kravica was according to the ICTY  a legitimate military target. According to RDC ( Reaserch and Documentation Centre) 35 Serb soldiers and 11 civilians died in the fighting. An additional 36 Serb soldiers were wounded. This information was collected from offical Bosnian Serb documentation, a document entitled: Warpath of the Bratunac Brigade.

According to the ICTY´s verdict against the Bosnian Army commander in Srebrenica, Naser Orić :

Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties.(Orić , par.103)

In comparison, it appears that the Bosnian Muslim side did not adequately prepare for the looming armed conflict. There were not even firearms to be found in the Bosnian Muslim villages, apart from some privately owned pistols and hunting rifles; a few light weapons were kept at the Srebrenica police station. (Oric, par.94)

Between June 1992 and March 1993, Bosnian Muslims raided a number of villages and hamlets inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, or from which Bosnian Muslims had formerly been expelled. One of the purposes of these actions was to acquire food, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. Bosnian Serb forces controlling the access roads were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As a consequence, there was a constant and serious shortage of food causing starvation to peak in the winter of 1992/1993. Numerous people died or were in an extremely emaciated state due to malnutrition. (Orić , par.104)

In regards to Kravica, the verdict says:

The fighting intensified in December 1992 and the beginning of January 1993, when Bosnian Muslims were attacked by Bosnian Serbs primarily from the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. In the early morning of the 7 January 1993, Orthodox Christmas day, Bosnian Muslims attacked Kravica, Ježestica and Šiljkovići. Convincing evidence suggests that the village guards were backed by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army], and following the fighting in the summer of 1992, they received military support, including weapons and training. A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was kept in Kravica and Šiljkovići. Moreover, there is evidence that besides the village guards, there was Serb and Bosnian Serb military presence in the area. The evidence is unclear as to the number of houses destroyed by Bosnian Muslims as opposed to those destroyed by Bosnian Serbs. In light of this uncertainty, the Trial Chamber concludes that the destruction of property in Kravica between 7 and 8 December 1992 does not fulfil the elements of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages not justified by military necessity. (Orić , par.662,)

A report from the Bosnian Serb Army´s Bratunac Brigade dated January 4th 1993 says that combat operations in the area Bratunac – Kravica will continue until Serb forces have control over that area. Meaning that far from being on the defensive, the VRS were in fact on the offensive. Lazar Ostojić , the Bosnian Serb commander in Kravica during the attack says in his book, “Bloody Christmas in Kravica” (Krvavi Božić Sela Kravica) that he had at his disposal 50 elite soldiers from Bjelijna and a so-called Internventni Vod ( a commando unit)  along with 400 soldiers. According to his account he decided to evacuate the village around 9 o´clock in the morning, leaving only soldiers in Kravica. Last group of Serb soldiers left Kravica at around four in the afternoon. That day he signed off on 22 cases of infantry ammunition and more than 400 artillery shells along with 5000 anti-air craft rounds to his soldiers, proving that Kravica was a highly militarized village and one of the staging points for Serb attacks on Srebrenica.

The Trial Chamber also found that there was  evidence that in Kravica and Ježestica, Serbs fired artillery from houses and other buildings, which led to house-to-house fighting  between Bosnian Army soldiers and the Serb rebels. Furthermore, according to the Trial Chamber;  Serbs located on hills north and northeast of Kravica fired artillery in the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. A witness observed shells landing on houses in the villiges, causing fire. (Orić , par.665)

According to the RDC, the number of Serbs from Central Bosnia buried in Bratunac was consistent with the population movements after the war, especially the Serb population from the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo, which had under the Dayton Peace Accords became part of a re-integrated Sarajevo, having previously been held by Bosnian Serb forces. The political leadership of the Bosnian Serbs called on the population to leave those areas and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. According to RDC such a large percentage of Sarajevo Serbs followed the instructions that parts of the city that had been under  occupation remained deserted for months. Most importantly though,  the RDC notes that the Serb dead from Sarajevo who were later re-buried in Bratunac area are represented as results of actions taken by the Bosnian Army units from Srebrenica.

The RDC also concluded from their investigation of the military cemetery in Bratunac that 139 of the dead soldiers buried there had lived and fought elswhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, but where nevertheless buried at the Bratunac military cemetery. According to the RDC: 48 victims buried in Bratunac fought and died in Hadžići; 36 fought and died in Srebrenica; 34 and died in Vogošća; 3 in Konjic and 3 more in Ilijaš; 2 fought and died in Sarajevo, two more in Ilidža; one in Trnovo, Pale and Tuzla each. All of these figures are  presented as results of Naser Orić ´s actions as well. ( the only ones actually being the 34 Serb soldiers who died in fighting around Srebrenica)

Serbs in Ilijas digging up their dead in winter of 1996
Bosnian Serbs in Ilijaš digging up their dead in winter of 1996

In January 1996 HRW´s Emma Daly reported from Sarajevo about the removal of bodies from cemeteries and Serbs burning their own houses rather then let it fall into the hands of the “Muslim enemy” as well as the fact that Bosnian Serb forces were still firing into the city, and killing civilians months after Dayton Peace Accords had been signed. (Daly reported for The Independent during the Bosnian war)

Borchgrevink also points to the United Nations 155-page report on the fall of Srebrenica, where former UN-secretary general Kofi Annan says that the Serbs exaggerated the Bosnian Army attacks as way of disguising their real objective; which was an ethnically pure Serb state. That meant that Serb forces killed tens of thousands Bosniak and Croat civilians during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. According to Borchgrevink: Srebrenica was not an ordinary military operation as NRK´s expert (John R. Schindler) points out but the culmination of the ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia.

Borchgrevink goes on to say that the documentary´s expert (John R. Schindler) recycles old controversial Serb nationalist claims about 1300 Serb civilians killed around Srebrenica, and that of the Bosniaks killed by Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica only some 2000 disarmed prisoners of war were executed by elements of the Bosnian Serb Army´s counterintelligence while the rest were killed in combat while trying to reach Tuzla.

This is of course nonsense, even if it´s cleverly packaged. As Borchgrevink writes; John R. Schindler´s  claims are refuted by RDC´s findings, which show that of the 567 Serbs killed in the Bratunac area (Where Naser Orić ´s alleged crimes took place) 448 were Serb soldiers, and the rest, 119, were civilians. This is of course a lot, but nowhere near the figures Schindler cites. It should be added that John R. Schindler  himself has used RDC findings in his now eviscerated propaganda tract Unholy Terror. British historian, well known Balkan expert and genocide scholar Marko Attila Hoare, who reviewed Schindler´s book pointed to Schindler´s amusing blunders in regards to RDC figures. Hoare writes:

One of the more amusing of Schindler’s blunders concerns the scientific calculation of the figure for Bosnian war-dead carried out by Mirsad Tokaca’s Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which placed it at about one hundred thousand. Schindler seems to endorse this figure wholeheartedly, seeing it as proof that earlier estimates of Bosnian war-dead had been ‘grossly exaggerated’, and complaining that Tokaca’s result ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’ (p. 317). The reason this is amusing is that Tokaca’s figures disprove several of the figures for Serb dead at the hands of Bosnian forces that Schindler himself cites. Thus, Schindler claims that ‘more than 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, some soldiers but at least 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica’ (p. 228).

Borchgrevink also points out that international forensics experts have identified 6481 individual victims from various mass graves from around Srebrenica and have determend that over 8100 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were killed. Subsquent trials that have taken place at the ICTY and ICJ (International Court of Justice) have proven that Srebrenica was an act of genocide, a well planned and carried out mass murder with the intent to destroy the Bosniaks of Srebrenica and Žepa as an ethnic, religous and a political group.

It should also be added that Borchgrevink´s and Norwegian Helsinki Committee critique of  “A Town Betrayed” and it´s main “expert” John R. Schindler came in May 2011. Since then figures regarding those found in mass graves has changed, given that Srebrenica is still an active crime scene and that about 1000 of those killed in the genocide still are uncounted for. As of June 2015, the figure of those Bosniaks who have been identified stands at 6930, working from a set of 17,000 human remains located in 93 mass graves. This of course destroys the filmmakers and John R. Schindler´s thesis that the majority of Srebrenica´s Bosniaks were “killed making their way to Tuzla” instead they were captured and taken to various execution sites. For more, see Christian Jennings: Bosnia´s Million Bones- Solving the World´s Biggest Forensic Puzzle)

Borchgrevink also dismisses Schindler´s claim that the reason Ratko Mladić wanted to take the town was due to arms smuggling into Srebrenica. Schindler and the filmmakers remain quiet about the notorious Directive 7 order issued out by Bosnian Serb leadership in March 1995, four months before the genocide in Srebrenica. Directive 7, signed by Radovan Karadžić called for the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims from the safe areas. The safe areas included Srebrenica and Žepa. On March 8th 1995, Radovan Karadžić issued Operational Directive 7 from the Supreme Command of the VRS. The Directive ordered the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army) to “complete the physical separation of the Srebrenica and Žepa enclaves as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals between the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought-out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity, with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica or Žepa.”

As Ed Vulliamy and Florence Hartmann point out in a new report published by The Guardian, Mladić  had told the Bosnian Serb assembly, “My concern is to have them vanish completely”, and that Karadžić pledged “blood up to the knees” if his army took Srebrenica.” Directive 7, was of course known, or should have been known to the filmmakers and John R. Schindler, yet it does not appear anywhere in the documentary. A pretty big omission in my opinion…

But the most telling sign of what this documentary´s objective really was, is the fact that behind the scenes, the documentary´s advisors and consultants were made up of what Swedish daily Eskilstuna-Kuriren´s political editor Alex Voronov called “a Serb nationalist propaganda centre and a revisionist sewer.”

This sewer included Zorica Mitić, a physician from Belgrade who had since 2000 lived in Norway. In Serbian media, like Pecat and various Serb Diaspora sites she had repeatedly denied that what had happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide and had highly recommended sites and organizations that had “exposed the myth of genocide” (go ahead, just read the link from Pecat and Glas Dijaspore) among the sites she had recommended was a Hague-based NGO called “Srebenica Historical Project”  led by a Serb-American lawyer Stephan Karganović who was in 2012 compared to Holocaust denier David Irving by USHMM and Foreign Policy Magazine. Srebenica Historical Project is funded in part by Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik as USHMM and Foreign Policy explain. Dodik is one the most fervent genocide deniers in the Balkans, as late as June 2015 he called the genocide in Srebrenica “the biggest sham of the 20th century.”

Another “consultant” to the documentary was a man named Ozren Jorganović, who for a while worked for Norwegian State Television. (NRK) I don´t  know how he got the job in Norwegian State Television, but what is known is that during the Bosnian war Jorganović was station manager of Radio Ozren, a Bosnian Serb propaganda station near Doboj, as well as Radio Doboj during the war. He was also a long-time correspondent for various news sites in Bosnia´s Republika Srpska entity as well as for SRNA.

Aside from Borchgrevink´s critique, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee also sent the Norwegian Television an 18-page report listing 25 (!) factual errors in the documentary. Here is the full report, in Norwegian (PDF)

It would be simply impossible to list and translate all the inaccuracies and falsehoods in the documentary; the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s report is 18 pages long (!) so here are just a few of the most important ones. (Within the first ten pages!) However the points that NHC raises show the real intent of the filmmakers and the level of deception that they engage in.

1 (3) the documentary claims that Bosnia´s Muslim majority declared independence (in the spring of 1992) and that a civil war erupted as result of that. This is misleading. There was a referendum on March 1, 1992 about the independence where Bosniaks, Croats and some Serbs voted for independence. A large number of Serbs voted against or boycotted the referendum. What happened after was that Bosnian Serb forces along with Serbian forces (both regular and paramilitary) attacked the Bosniak civilian population and representatives of the Bosnian authorities in April 1992. After the initial attack on Bosnia, Serbia officially tried to distance itself from the war, but Serbian authorities continued to support and exercise control over those forces. This has also been established by the ICTY and the ICJ. (International Court of Justice)

2 (4) 6:32 The documentary says that “two years later (1992) there is a civil war in Eastern Bosnia” The documentary does not explain how that war played out in that part of the country. During the ethnic cleansing of Eastern Bosnia thousands of civilians were killed and the surviving Bosniaks expelled to Bosnian-government controlled territory or forced into the enclaves of Goražde, Žepa and Srebrenica where they were subjected to artillery attacks. These areas were declared “safe areas” by the UN Security resolution on 16 of April 1993. One of the main problems with that was that the despite the Security Council´s decision there was a lack of willingness from the UN-member states to send enough soldiers to protect the area.

3 (8) 25:20 The documentary says that the Bosniaks promised that they would not attack Serb villages from Srebrenica and not harass the Serbs the area of Sarajevo in connection to the establishment of the safe areas. It´s true that both sides broke the agreement on demilitarization, but the documentary avoids mentioning that the situation was asymmetrical and that the Serbs did not remove their heavy artillery from around Srebrenica. Instead Serbs used it to shell the area. In addition to blocking aid to the enclaves and taking UN-personnel as hostages on several occasions.  A delegation from the UN-Security Council, led by Diego Arria arrived in Srebrenica on April 25  1993 and in its report the UN condemned the Serb forces for carrying out that what was called a “slow-motion process of genocide” The report concluded “that Serb forces must withdraw to points from which they cannot attack, harass or terrorize the town”. In the end the Serbs captured two of the enclaves, Žepa and Srebrenica.

And lastly, the report points out that it has been proven in the Krstić verdict that Srebrenica had immense strategic importance for the Serb war effort. Being situated as it is in the middle of what was planned to be a Greater Serbia.

”Srebrenica (and the surrounding Central Podrinje Region) were… of immense strategic importance to the Bosnian Serb leadership. Without Srebrenica, the ethnically pure Serb state of Republika Srpska they sought to create would remain divided into two disconnected parts, and its access to Serbia proper would be disrupted.”

NHC concludes that is the reason why Srebrenica was attacked and that the decision to kill the male population of Srebrenica has to be viewed in that context.

Note: As I wrote above, the full report is 18-pages long and points to in total 25 similar falsehoods and factual errors which show that this is not a question of innocent mistakes, but a deliberate deception on the part of the filmmakers and the “experts” and “consultants”.

For my Bosnian readers, I can highly recommend Sanjin Pejković dissection (in Bosnian) of the documentary. Sanjin has written extensively about it in Swedish. He, along with Alex Voronov  and others were engaged in a debate with the filmmakers, a debate which the filmmakers lost.

There is of course plenty more to be said about this documentary, and a lot of it explained by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s 18-page report as well Pejković´s dissection of the methods used by the filmmakers and what they were alluding to.

As for me, I can only say that I am proud to have been a small part of a larger group of dedicated people who worked on exposing the lies told in the documentary.

Furthermore for those not interested in recyceled Serb nationalist lies and propaganda, I can highly recommend the following documentaries on Srebrenica:

Srebrenica- A Cry From The Grave, from 1999. Full Documentary.

As well as the new Dutch documentary: Why Srebrenica had to Fall

Also check out BBC´s new documentary about the genocide:

 

This post has been edited and uppdated on 19/07/2015

P.S. I had previously (erroneously) written that 448 Serbs died in the Bratunac area in total. That has been corrected. The correct figure is; 567, of those 448 Serb soldiers and 119 civilians. Follow the RDC link for full info.

Unholy Alliance-Greece and Milosevic´s Serbia Revisited

Radovan Karadzic  awarding members of the GVG with the White Eagle medal.
Radovan Karadzic honouring members of the GVG

About two years ago I got the permission from CNAB ( Congress of the North American Bosniaks) to re-publish a revised and uppdated version of Daniel Toljaga´s 2009 interview with greek writer and journalist Takis Michas. Michas had in 2002 published a book detailing the support of the Greek State, the Greek Orthodox Church as well as the popular support of ordinary greeks for the Slobodan Milosevic´s Greater Serbian campagin, and the support for his Bosnian Serb clients: Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. The book; Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic’s Serbia dealt in great detail the relationship between the two countries (Serbia and Greece) during the Yugoslav wars and particular the Bosnian genocide. The partnership included shipment of arms to Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs, in 2002 the Dutch report of the fall of Srebrenica concluded that Greece had sent arms and ammunition to the Bosnian Serbs during 1994 and 1995. Michas book on the other had in it testemony that the Greek goverment under the leadership of Andreas Papandreou leaked Nato military intelligence to the Bosnian Serbs.

Double-headed Eagle of Byzantium. Emblem of the Greek Volunteer Guard.
Emblem of the Greek Volunteer Guard. (Grcka Dobrovoljacka Garda)

In Bosnia, Greek ultra-nationalists including members of the Greek Volunteer Guard and reporterdly members of far-right Golden Dawn also made up a 100-man strong contigent of the Bosnian Serb Army. The unit was formed on the order of Ratko Mladic. The unit, which fought alongside Russians and Ukrainians, was led by Serb officers and had its own insignia, the double-headed eagle of Byzantium. According to the report: Greek and Russian mercenaries were also involved in the attack on Srebrenica. A Greek Volunteer Guard, a unit based in Vlasenica, was formed in March 1995 and was fully incorporated in the Drina Corps.” At least four of its members were awarded the White Eagle medal of honour by Karadzic. ( page 2787 NIOD -Report )

Despite the well-documented presence of Greek volunteers in Srebrenica, (after the fall of Srebrenica Ratko Mladic thought it would be a good idea if the Greeks raised a Greek flag above the town along with the Serb flag for propaganda purposes) none of the volunteers have thus far been indicted by the Greek state for their role in the takeover and the subsequent genocide in Srebrenica. Now in a new interview, 13 years after his book Michas and Al Jazzira Balkans revisited what is for many Greeks still a difficult topic. According to Michas the presence of Greek nationals fighting alongside the Bosnian Serbs was not a secret in Greece. Many of them were interviewed by Greek newspapers and they were considered to be heros by a great many people. Greek media also reported on the Greek volunteers role in the takeover of Srebrenica as well as the raising of the Greek flag. According to Michas, however after it became clear that the ICTY was going after the people responsible for what happened in Srebrenica, greeks who had been in Bosnia stopped giving intreviews to newpapers and tried to disappear.

See the full intreview with Takis Michas in English (with Bosnian subtitles) here below.

This article, written by Muhamed Fazlagic, (a Bosnian-American, and member of the Sociological Association, the North Central Sociological Association, and the Midwest Sociological Society )  is a response to the decision of  Republika Srpska (RS) education ministry to instruct all primary schools in the entity to officially change the name of one of Bosnia’s three constituent languages from Bosnian to ‘Bosniak’ thus causing anger among Bosniaks living in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As Balkan Insight explains in many cases Bosniak parents have refused to accept the end-of-year cards, while others, including parents, teachers and officials complained that this “was an attempt to drive the remaining non-Serbs from RS by humiliation and the denial of their basic human and cultural rights”.  

While other Bosniaks believe that this is just another ploy by the RS´s Serb authorities to use ethnic issues to divert public attention from pressing economic and social issues. One of those is Mirsad Duratovic a Bosniak from Prijedor whose children go to a local primery school. “I think this is all about shifting the focus away from the hard social and economic situation,” he said to BIRN on Thursday. I pointed to an attempt by Serb nationalists in Republika Srpska to deny the existence of a Bosnian language in December last year as a recording of the Bosnian Serb premier  Zeljka Cvijanovic was leaked to Bosnian press where we can hear Cvijanovic talking about buying off political opponents as well as about lobbying linguists in order to spread the idea that there is no such thing as a Bosnian language…

This article originally appeared on several Bosnian news-sites and has been translated and re-published here with the permission of the author. 

 

Muhamed Fazlagic
Muhamed Fazlagic

Last few days we have became witnesses to another manufactured crisis i.e. discrimination prepared in the regime-lab of the smaller BiH-entity.

Not only are Bosniak students not allowed to study the subjects which they are guaranteed by law, it´s all gone one step further. On their own initiative the government of the poorer BiH-entity has given itself the right to re-name the Bosnian language into a “bosniak language” and register it like that in the student’s report-cards.

Luckily the OHR (Office of the High Representative) acted promptly and as the principal interpreter of the Bosnian Constitution gave the legal explanation which clearly shows that the official languages ​​in Bosnia and Herzegovina are: Croatian, Serbian and Bosnian.

And if there was any dilemma’s left in the RS government through its statement, the OHR, which I repeat as an institution and in the capacity of the High Representative, is the supreme interpreter of the Constitution.

So, from the legal standpoint it´s clear, the Bosnian language is the official language and the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina who want to express their desire to speak Bosnian can do so without anyone being able to deny them that right, plain and simple.

After they pre- calculated that they would fail in the legal field, because they know very well how to read the Dayton Agreement and to explain the difference between the letter and spirit of that agreement, the authorities in the smaller entity are trying to prove that there is a lack of cultural and historical merits for the existence of a Bosnian language.

Since the script was largely predictable, they would not resort to any new facts as in all previous cases, which were and weren’t related to education, but which´s common denominator has always been the denial of the statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to act preventively and immediately support and provide authorities in the smaller entity with valid and credible information.

Once upon a time, in the first and second century AD, the Roman historian Appian (as recorded by Mustafa Imamovic in History of the Bosniaks ), who must have been a very important writer in his time, because his descendants have named the most beautiful street in the center of Rome; Via Appia- wrote the name Bosnia – in phonological character of the current language of the time.

Also, the Byzantine Emperor and writer Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who in mid- tenth century, in his book “About nations” (De administrando Empire) wrote the name of Bosnia, and Usora and the name of the people who inhabited this area, and his neighbors, and the structural variants of their language.

At the end of the twelfth century, the Bosnian Ban Kulin in his charter confirmed the name of a geographical concept and state of Bosnia and hence the name of the language of all Bošnjana (Bosnians) i.e. the Bosnian language.

To the left, the first Bosnian dictionary, from 1631. To the right, the first Serbian dictionary, from 1818.
To the left, the first Bosnian dictionary, from 1631. To the right, the first Serbian dictionary, from 1818.

And then over the next centuries, many writers, chroniclers, travel writers, rulers, and religious dignitaries from these and neighboring regions and countries registered the name Bosnia not only as hydronym and toponym (the name of the river and the name of the country), but also its anthroponymus derivative; impressively emphasizing the beauty of the Bosnian language (as “the pretty language of the good Bosnians”)

Constantine the Philosopher (a writer in the late 14th and early 15th centuries) mentioned the Bosnian language along with Bulgarian, Serbian, Slovenian, Czech and Croatian in Skazanie o pismeneh.

Muhammad Hevai Uskufi is the author of the first Bosnian dictionary in 1631. This vocabulary was helpful to the Bosniaks who served the Sultan. Bosniaks, military commanders wrote the so-called Krajina letters (krajišnička pisma) to the Dubrovnik authorities, to the chieftans in Montenegro, to USKOK elders, and to the Croatian elders in the service of Austria and Venice. The letters were written in the Bosnian language, mostly in the Ekavian dialect and some in Ijekavian if the writer happened to be from Herzegovina.

If historical merits are what you were looking for, it was my pleasure to try and provide you with those arguments… Regardless of how much certain politicians, projects or ideologies might wish to create a parallel universe, sooner or later they´ll have to join the real world. The longer they stay in the parallel universe, the harder the arrival into the real world will be! It will be very difficult for those who now do not understand, once they finally do understand that they live in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where people speak Bosnian, the way people to this day in Belgarde ask “How are things in Bosnia”?

However, it´s clear where this confusion that Dodik is trying so hard and in a fascistic manner to sell to his people comes from.

As far back as Načertanije by Ilija Garašanin (1844) it says that Bosnia is a home to Bosniaks of Orthodox, Catholic and Muhammadan (Islam)  faith. That means that one people live in Bosnia divided into three religious groups. I and others like me know that, as did the Serb Ilija Garašanin. It´s hard to run away from facts like that.

After Garašanin for 150 years efforts have been made to draw a line between one people, the Bosniaks and divide them along religious lines. This here that I am writing Dodik understands very well. Both the content and the language, since we both speak the same Bosnian language.

In Šumadija they speak differently from us, while Dodik and I speak the same language because we are from Bosnia and are one people, divided by force.

For more info, please visit Sarajevo University´s Institute of Languages.

rjecnik_bosanskog_jezika_institut
Rjecnik Bosanskog Jezika- Dictionary of the Bosnian Language 1,320 pages. 2007. Institute of Languages, Sarajevo University.

 

Oxford English-Bosnian Dictionary- Oxford University Press
Oxford English-Bosnian Dictionary- Oxford University Press

Persecution And Death In Vlasenica

On the 16th of May 2015, 23 years had passed since the Zaklopača massacre, in which at least 63 Bosniak men, women and children were killed by Bosnian Serb forces. Zaklopača, a village on the border with Srebrenica municipality was once part of the pre-war Vlasenica municipality. After the war Vlasenica was split into two municipalities by Serb authorities. The new municipality which Zaklopača is now a part of is called Milići. Before the Bosnian war Zaklopača was a predominantly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) village, Bosniaks constituted some 60 percent of the village population. Bosnian Serb forces killed close to 40 percent of the population and ethnically cleansed rest of the Bosniaks who lived there. To this day no one has been tried for the massacre in the village.

Back in 2010, Daniel Toljaga spoke to one of the people that survived the massacre in May 1992, a woman called Nihada Hodzić. She had managed to escape the carnage in Zaklopača with her mother but lost eight members of her extended family in the massacre, including her grandfather Ibro and five uncles. Her father and several other members of her extended family managed to escape the slaughter and were reunited in Zagreb in 1993. The bodies of her dead relatives were later exhumed from a mass grave.  However as Nihada recalled in her interview with Dan; it´s hard to separate the pain one feels for ones close relatives from the pain one feels for the loss of good friends and neighbors, especially in a small tightly-knit community.

This wasn´t the first time Bosniaks in Zaklopača were subjected to persecution and murder at the hands of Serb nationalists. As Daniel pointed out in his interview with Nihada; Zaklopača was the scene of an infamous fall 1941 massacre, when Chetnik forces under the command of Jezdimir Dangić barricaded 81 Bosniak men, women and children in the local mekteb (Muslim religious school) and then burned them alive. In August 1941 Dangić was appointed as commander of Chetnik forces in Eastern Bosnia by Draža Mihailović. During his time as Chetnik commander in eastern Bosnia; Dangić collaborated with both the Italians and Nazis against the Partisans, seeing Tito´s Partisans as his primary enemy.

Still, according to Nihada Hodzić people didn´t believe something like that could happen again. People were sure that nothing would happen. When they heard automatic weapons being fired in the distance, they were told that it was “only routine training by the armed forces” Her grandfather on the other hand knew that things looked bleak and that something was coming. Her grandfather Ibro had already survived an execution in 1941 when a dozen Bosniaks in Zaklopača were killed, including Ibro´s dad and Nihada´s great grandfather. Ibro was only fifteen when the massacre took place and it was his quick thinking that saved his life then.

Fifty years later he was killed by Serb extremists on the steps of his own home, as well as his five sons and one grandson who was sixteen at the time. Yet no one in the village could understand Nihada´s grandfather´s fears of an impending massacre due to the constants reassurances of a Serb neighbor Milenko Đurić, called Gorčin who kept telling them that nothing would happen to them and that they should carry on as usual. Nihada belives that Milenko Đurić was directly or indirectly involved in the plot leading up to the massacre, according to Nihada they had attempted to flee Zaklopača prior to the massacre to a safe haven in Živinice however they were sent back by Đurić who used similar reasoning to reassure them. She believes that he played a middleman who manipulated the fears of the Bosniaks in Zaklopača and their trust in him as a great friend and neighbor in order to set the stage for a more effective premeditated “military” operation by the Serb forces, i.e.  that it was his job to pacify the Bosniaks in the village by convincing them that they had nothing to fear from their Serb neighbors.

However there were signs that something horrible was coming, not only in Zaklopača but in the surrounding area as well. A week prior to the massacre in Zaklopača, two of Nihada´s uncles and her father were arrested and brought up for questioning at the local Police Station in Milići. The Police Station had been taken over by Bosnian Serb forces. He and the others were picked up by reserve police units and brought to the station. According to Nihada, they were picked up by the police after they were stopped and asked to identify themselves. Anyone with a Bosniak name was taken to the station where they were interrogated. Some of the men were severely beaten by the Serb police forces. According to Nihada; her father and uncles were shoved into a small room with hundreds of other Bosniak civilan men, it´s there that he witnessed “some very gruesome acts being performed on these defenceless civilian men” according to Nihada, they were beaten beyond recognition, some even defecated on themselves out of fear.

Nihada´s father told her that it was Milenko Đurić ( Gorčin ) came to his rescue. He was responsible for her father´s release from the station. After that Nihada´s father refused to go back to work, anticipating something worse was to come, despite reassurances from Đurić who said that Nihada´s father should go back to work and carry on as usual. Still Nihada´s father was lucky, many of the men who stayed behind at the Police Station in Milići were never heard from again.  There were signs that something bad would happen, Serb militia was crusing around the village telling people that they should hand over any weapons they had, even hunting rifles. Nihada suspects that was just a way of demilitarizing the village before the slaughter.

On the day of the massacre her mother was working in the vegetable garden when she saw jeeps and cars coming into the village around noon on that 16th of May 1992. In front of the jeeps was a police car, on one of the jeeps, a white one there was a slogan; Pokolj (Slaughter) written in Cyrillic. The convoy had come from the main road leading to Milići. Nihada´s mother recalled that the jeeps were packed with long bearded well armed “Chetniks”, some with nylon socks covering their heads. She rushed to Nihada´s oldest uncle Bećir who was in the garden with her and told him to run, he tried to reassure her that everything would be allright. Those were his last words to Nihada´s mother. Nihada´s mother ran to the house and started packing and getting Nihada and her sisters ready for the worst possible. They ran over to one of Nihada´s other uncle´s houses where almost all of Nihada´s relatives had gathered as well as a few other neighbors. The bullets whizzed thru the house leaving holes. At one point, a bullet pierced through Nihada´s mothers light denim jacket, as she was in her lap. The bullet missed both by a hair. The shooting lasted for another fifteen or twenty minutes. As it subsided they heard one of her uncle´s calling her aunt to come out. As they came out they saw one of the Serbs militiamen pointing a gun at him, he looked pale, afraid, asking for a cigarette. As he reached in his pocket for a lighter, the Serb militiaman shot him in front of his relatives and started firing at the people gathered outside the house. Once the Serbs left, there were dead bodies everywhere; men, women and children. Nihada saw her eldest uncle Bećir again, lying in a pool of blood, he was dead too. Rest of her family, those who were still alive decided to “surrender” to the Serbs not knowing that her father had managed to escape the slaughter. They thought they had no one left and were ready to die too. After the massacre the bodies were dumped in a mass grave, and later dug up again and relocated to a secondary mass grave in order to cover up the crime. In May 2004 forensic experts found the grave and exhumed the bodies. The youngest victim was Naida Hodzić, five years old at the time of death. (Photos from the exhumation and funeral can be found on Srebrenica Genocide Blog: here and here )

Forensic team of the ICMP inspects remains of the Bosniak victims - women, children, and the elderly - in the Zaklopaca mass grave.
Forensic team of the ICMP inspects remains of the Bosniak victims – women, children, and the elderly – in the Zaklopaca mass grave.

As Nihada points out it´s difficult to bring the perpetrators of the  massacre to justice as most of the people who could have testify have been killed in the war. Her father didn´t see anyone he recognised up close, but they are certain that Milići police was directly involved in the massacre. According to Nihada  the process has been extremely slow and ar nobody has been tried for the massacre in Zaklopača even though as Daniel pointed out: ICTY transcripts suggest that Milenko Đurić ( Gorčin ) was directly involved in the events leading up to the massacre including demands that Bosniaks hand over any weapons. As Dan pointed out in the interview; Milenko Đurić was right under the mayor of Vlasenica, Milomir Stanic when it comes to the Serb chain of command. ( Daniel´s full interview with Nihada can be read here)

Vlasenica itself was occupied by the JNA´s (Yugoslav People´s Army) notorious  Novi Sad Corps out of Vojvodina at the end of April 1992. Novi Sad Corps of the JNA had participated in the brutal Seige of Vukovar. During the takeover of the town (Vlasenica) scores of people were killed, others taken to the now notorious detention camp Sušica were Bosniak civilians were beaten, raped, and many were murdered while others were simply “ethnically cleansed”, or expelled, those were the lucky ones. During the trials of Predrag Bastah and Goran Višković (Bastah was reserve policeman while Višković a member of the Bosnian Serb Army) Bosnian State Court concluded based on the evidence presented to them that between April and late September 1992 units of the JNA, as well as Bosnian Serb military and paramilitary units took part in a widespread and systematic attack directed at the Bosniak and other non-Serb population of Vlasenica Municipality. The long list of crimes committed by the two men in the company of other Serb soldiers or police officers includes torture, kidnapping, and murder of both individuals and group executions.

Not many people outside of Eastern Bosnia or Podrinje (Drina Valley) have heard of Sušica, a camp located near Vlasenica. People who had been “cleansed” from Vlasenica and survivors of the camp who had made it across the frontlines to Bosnian goverment-controlled territory spoke of the atrocities committed at the camp but it wasn´t until 1993 when a remorseful Serb soldier and a guard at the camp, named Pero Popović, 36 years old at the time deserted from the Bosnian Serb Army that the stories of the atrocities in Sušica could be confirmed. Popović and about a dozen Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) survivors of the camp were interviewed on three separate occasions by the New York Times.  According to the Times; “their convergent portrayals, conveyed in separate, independent interviews, establish Sušica’s function as the systematic elimination of Muslims from the area.”

Popović made it clear to the New York Times in three separate interviews that executions were a nightly occurrence at the camp and that a unit of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav Army (former JNA) had helped carry out the “cleansing” of Vlasenica. He also admitted to taking part in some of the beatings but that he had never killed anyone. One of the people that Popović guarded in Sušica was Fikra Atalov, a 60 year-old woman from Vlasenica who was held in the camp in July 1992 and was later transferred to safety on Bosnian-controlled territory in Kladanj. According to her testimony to the New York Times; more and more people were coming in every day and room had to be made for them that was done either by transferring women and children to Kladanj or the executions of men. Other times Serb soldiers would come for the women in the camp. They were taken away and usually sexually assaulted by the Serb soldiers. According to Atlov it was the silence that was so eerie. Even little children that were in the camp had to keep quit as they heard shooting nearby. When Fikra was transferred out of Sušica she had to leave behind a 37-year old son, a mechanic called  Naser Atlov in Sušica. When the interview with Fikra was conducted he was still missing, the last time she saw him was in the camp. Popović however belived at the time that her son may have been released and that he was in Tuzla.

According to Popović executions of small group of men usually took place within the camp. Outside the hanger that was being used as barracks. But large-scale executions were carried out at a nearby ravine called Han Ploča. Most of the large scale executions were carried out as reprisal for the killing in the war of a local Serb. Prisoners from the camp were loaded on the back of a truck and taken to the ravine which was about five miles away towards Han Pjesak ( where Ratko Mladić had his command centre.) They were taken to the edge of the ravine and shot as they got out the truck. According to Popović; group of young soldiers were brought in to do the executions. Bosnian Serb Army used bulldozers to cover the bodies. In mid-June 1992 he witnessed an execution of 26 people, one man managed to escape that time by running into the woods as he got out the truck. Popović belives that at least 1000 people were executed on that spot.

Another witness to the brutality prisoners of the camp were subjected to was Rafija Hadzić, taken to the camp in July 1992 after she had been kidnapped from her house. A Serb soldier broke in and told her to undress, an hour before her husband Ejub Hadzić had benn arrested and taken away. She never heard from him again. According to Rafija the Serb soldier who broke into her home and told her to undress beat her with the butt of her gun and cut her with a knife. After the assault she and her 8-year-old daughter who was standing in the room during the assault were taken to Sušica where they saw about 700 Bosniak residents from the Vlasenica area; men, women and children. During her time at the camp she witnessed as the guards cut a men´s ear off and killed two others. She could name the two men killed. They were: Ismet Dedić and Galib Musić. The bodies of those killed in the camp could sometime lie on the hanger floor for hours before being taken away by the guards. 10 days later she and her daughter were taken to the front lines near Kladanj and walked down to Bosnian government territory.

At the beginning of July, Bosnian government soldiers, two months after the Yugoslav Army with the help of Serbian State Security forces and extremists loyal Radovan Karadžić began their attack on Bosnia and Herzegovina and the genocide on the Drina river started to unfold were starting to get better organized and started to fighting back. On July 5th they killed two Bosnian Serb rebel fighters from Vlasenica in an ambush. One of them was a well-liked car mechanic and according to Popović a brave fighter. His cousin died alongside him in the ambush. As retaliation about 300 prisoners from Sušica from were killed by a firing squad according to Popović.

Sušica camp
Sušica camp

By September 1992 there were few Bosniaks left in Vlasenica, mostly old people and invalids whom the Serbs avoided until then. It was their turn to be “cleansed” now. One of the old people that Serb forces came for was Tima (Fatima) Handzić aged 93 at the time of the interview she was lying in bed when a Serb soldier kicked in the door to her house in mid-September and ordered her to come with him. Tima and her daughter Meira who was in the house with her were taken to the camp, on arrival she remembered seeing hundreds of people on the concrete floor of the hanger, her daughter Meira said that she thought that they were dead. Serb forces had taken away Meira´s son Suljo on June 1. She saw him again upon entering Sušica, she recalled that he approached her embraced her and said: “Now that you are here, I see that it’s finished. There is no hope for me.” The next day Tima and Meira Handzić were loaded onto a bus and taken away to Kladanj. Once in Kladanj, Meira was reunited with her other son Abdulah, apparently a passionate chess player who´s friendship with the Serb president of Vlasenica´s chess club had saved his life, on May 17 he was able to escape Vlasenica with a special pass provided to him by the president of the chess club. Abdulah became a soldier in the Bosnian Army and despite stepping on a land mine which gave him a limp he was still determend to return to the fight. He was also driven by a desire to find his brother Suljo who was last seen by his mother and grandmother in Sušica, however in his intreviews with the New York Times Popović confirmed that Suljo was dead. He had been executed.

The man Popović and the other witnesses New York Times spoke to identify as most responsible for their suffering was in the camp was Dragan Nikolić called Jenki, commander of the camp. Popović believed that Nikolić had been induced by Serb nationalist propaganda and that as commander of the camp he was making a lot of money of his victims. One woman had offered 18,000 German marks to help her get out and given that according to the ICTY 8000 people passed thru the camp there was clearly money to be made on their suffering and  Dragan Nikolic was taking everything of value he could from the Bosniaks in Vlasenica.

By the end of August 1992 Nikolić had been replaced by Maj, Mile Jaćimović who was utterly ruthless in his determination to root out all the Bosniaks in Vlasenica, and by the end of September he had decided to close the camp. When asked by the Times if he thought that this was beause Jacimovic feared that the camp would be discovered by following the disocvery of Omarska in August 1992 Popović said; “No, it was simply that there were no more Muslims in the Vlasenica area, and Jaćimović and Nikolic had taken all the money they could from the Muslims.”

Dragan Nikolić was the first person to be indicted by the ICTY (International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) back in 1994 thanks to the testimony of survivors and Popović. Leading a pretty unremarkable life before the Bosnian War, he was marginally employed  didn´t have children and was never married, a native of Vlasenica, before the war he was generally well-liked by the people who knew him, regardless of ethnicity. On November 4th 1994 two separate arrest warrants were issued for Nikolić by the ICTY who brought the matter before the UN Security Council due to the Bosnian Serb leadership’s failure to respond to the arrest warrant. This was however not really a surprise, the notion that a political leadership of an entity where many in the leadership were indicted and had arrest warrant against them would hand Nikolić to the ICTY might seem ridiculous but the attention of UN security council did lead to an international arrest warrant transmitted to all member states.

Nikolić was finally arrested  2000 in Bosnia and brought before the tribunal. Once his trial started Nikolić entered into a plea agreement, pleading guilty on all charges from count 1 to 4, including persecution, murder, aiding and abetting rape and torture. According to ICTY: “As commander of the camp Nikolić subjected the detainees to inhumane living conditions by depriving them of adequate food, water, medical care, sleeping and toilet facilities, as a result of the atmosphere of terror and the conditions in the camp detainees suffered psychological and physical trauma.”

Nikolić confessed to the murders of Durmo Handzić and Hamo Zildzić. Two men were called out by Nikolić and camp guards and taken out back where they were severely beaten. Zildzić died shortly after the beatings and his body was buried by two prisoners while Durmo Handzić died later the next day after being questioned by Nikolić (despite being in severe agony from the beating) about the whereabouts of his son. Handzić died later as a result of his wounds.

He also confessed to the murders of Rasid Ferhatbegović, Muarem Kolarević,Dzevad Sarić and Ismet Zekić. Like Zildzić and Handzić; Muarem Kolarević and Dzevad Sarić were ordered to get up and were taken out back, later a guard came in and took out Ismet Zekić as well. For 30 minutes the prisoners inside the camp could hear screams of pain and gun shots coming from the back of the hangar. Two prisoners were later called upon to wash away the blood where the two men had been beaten and dispose of the bodies. Outside the hanger they watched as the guard that had called them out killed Ismet Zekić. Later that same guard entered the hanger with a local policeman and pointed to Rasid Ferhatbegović asking the guard if he was “the one that was running away” the guard said “yes” Ferhatbegović was taken out and shot. Prisoners charged with removal of bodies saw the body of Ferhatbegović lying on the ground with a bullet hole in his forehead as they went remove the body of Muarem Kolarević. On July 6th Nikolić took out Ismet Dedić out of the hangar. The other prisoners could hear Dedić scream, later Dedić was dragged back inside, his body covered in blood and barely recognizable. Dedić died not long after the beating and the prisoners placed his body in a plastic bag and removed it. Over a period of several days in the first week of July Nikolić beat a man Mevludin Hatunić several times until Hatunic died due to the injuries inflicted. During the second week of July over a period of seven days Nikolić beat a 60-year old man Galib Musić every day until Musić succumbed to his injures and died. Rafija Hadzić had in her testemony to NYT back in 1994 described Dedić´s and Musić´s murders.

From 1th of June to 18th of July Nikolić beat prisoner Fikret Arnaut both inside the hanger and in a special spot referred to as the “punishment corner.” Nikolić stomped on Arnaut´s chest and beat him with metal “knuckels” on his hands. He forced Arnaut to kneel on the floor, put his hands behind his head and tilted his head back while putting a bayonet in Fikret´s mouth and asking him about the whereabouts of his brother who Nikolić claimed had joined a group of  “Ustašas” One time Nikolić approached Arnaut and said: “I can’t believe how an animal like this can’t die; he must have two hearts”  and continued to beat him and stomp on his chest. Sead Ambesković and Hajrudin Osmanović who were originally arrested by Serb police in Vlasenica were also taken to Susića where they were subjected to beatings with axe handles, iron bars and rifle butts. They were interrogated several times during which they were beaten again, this time with iron bars, wooden bats and rifle butts for approximately 90 minutes. Sead´s head was cut as a result of the beating, four teeth were knocked out and three ribs broken. From June 13th to 3d of July Nikolić beat Suad Mahmutović on an almost daily basis, he beat him with iron bars, rifle butts and rubber tubing with lead inside. During one of the beating seven of Mahmutović´s ribs were cracked, Nikolic also hit him in the face several times leaving permanent scars. On one occasion, Nikolić put a cocked pistol into Suad Mahmutović’s mouth and tried to force him to admit that his neighbor had a weapon. Suad Mahmutović refused to admit that whereupon Nikolic pulled the trigger, but the gun wasn´t loaded.  

According to testemony and evidence dislpayed during Nikolić´s trial the Trial Chamber concluded that Nikolić derived enjoyment from the pain he inflicted on the prisoners in Sušica. One of the witnesses stated that he “enjoyed himself while he was beating people.”  “I know firsthand that he enjoyed beating Arnaut Fikret. He used to beat him five times a day” stated the witness. Nikolić and the other guards threw buckets of water on prisoners after they had passed out from the beatings they had recived, in order to revive them, some prisoners begged to be shot, in order to spare them of more suffering, Nikolić´s reply was: “A bullet is too expensive to be spent on a Muslim.”

Nikolić´s statement of guilt before the tribunal.

Given that he had entered a guilty plea on counts 1-4 he was sentenced to 23 years. He was granted early release in 2013 after serving two-thirds of that sentence. Together with Darko Mrdja a Bosnian Serb Police officer found guilty for the murder of more than 200 Bosniak prisoners at Korićanske Stijene on Mount Vlasić in central Bosnia in August 1992. The decision to release Nikolić and Mrdja was withheld from the public until November 2013 even though both men had already been released in October that year.

As for the returnees to Vlasenica and those expelled living in other parts of the country; they face an uphill struggle. Journalist and Balkan Diskurs founder Velma Sarić spoke to Bosniaks that were expelled from Vlasenica in April this year ahead of a collective burial of victims that have been exhumed from various mass-graves in surrounding hills above Vlasenica. This was the 12th collective burial held in Vlasenica.

One of those expelled, a woman with initials S.H is now living in small Sarajevo apartment with her 83 year old mother.  S.H worked in the municipal building in Vlasenica until 1992 when one of her colligues came ans said that the municipality was going to be divided into Muslim and Serb districts, according to S.H she believed that was just a figment of her colleague´s imagination but on April 8th 1992 they were prohibited from entering the building and were told not to come to work anymore. According to S.H: “That same night armed soldiers in uniform knocked on our door, they proceeded to search the house and took two of my brothers away. My mother and I were told to stay in the home. Words cannot explain the events that took place in my hometown. People were abducted, murdered on their doorsteps, expelled from their communities, and detained in camps. Women and girls were taken from their homes, humiliated and raped. My next door neighbor came on April 9th and took me away to an empty Muslim house where he proceeded to rape and torture me. He was drunk, and I will never forget how he reeked of alcohol. He raped me several times that night. I was held there for the next three months. Every day he would arrive with 20 or 30 soldiers and they would sit and drink. I was forced to serve them if one of the wanted to rape me he did. They would take me upstairs and point their weapons at me. I will never find peace until those who committed these heinous crimes are held accountable.”

The remains of one of her brothers, Mehmed were buried in 2010 while her brother Muhamed has not yet been found. According to S.H there were many other houses in Vlasenica where women and girls were held and went through the same hell as she did. She recalled the fate of sisters Aida and Velida Karać who didn´t survive and were finally buried in the Rakita Memorial Cemetery last year.

According to Sarić the fates of Aida and Velida who graduated from law school and veterinary school respectively was unknown for many years until their remains were found in a mass-grave in the Serbian village of Pelemiši 22 years later. They were taken from their family´s house one night in April while their parents were being detained at Sušica. According to their brother Hamdija his sisters were good girls who wanted to finish their studies and start their own families. Witnesses recall (including S.H ) that Serbian soldiers raped them a number of times and finally demanded that the girls allow themselves to be baptized. Once they refused, they were taken to Pelemiši and executed. S.H was also forced to be baptized, she was taken to a church near Vlasenica where she was forcebly baptized and given a Serb Ortodox name: Slađana Milošević. Such things were of course not uncommon. As the sex scandal involving Vasilje Kaćavenda the former Serb Orthodox bishop of Tuzla and Zvornik began to unreval one of those who came forward was a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) girl who claimed that Kaćavenda had imprisoned and raped her as well as forcing her to convert to Orthodox Christianity. Kaćavenda was finally brought down in 2013 when a sex-tape showing him s engaged in sexual activity with young men was leaked by a Serbian news-site.

According to the Families of Vlasenica War Victims ’92-’95 2,600 people from Vlasenica were killed during the war. 265 of those killed were children. An unknown number of Vlasenica residents were killed in the Srebrenica genocide. Some sources put the number at around 800. For most people who escaped the “cleansing” of Vlasenica during the spring and summer of 1992 the then newly liberated Srebrenica represented a safe heaven, a free territory, as well as Zepa further south. The same goes for the citizens fleeing the “cleansing” of Višegrad, Bjeljina, Zvornik, Bratunac, Sokolac, Rogatica, Foča and Han Pjesak.

A Memorial Stone in Potocari, listing the places where victims of Srebrenica genocide came from.
A Memorial Stone in Potocari, listing the places where some of the  victims of Srebrenica genocide came from.

This post was inspired by Hasan Nuhanović´s book  Zbjeg- Put u Srebrenicu  (Escape: The Road To Srebrenica) which I will be reviewing here soon. (Just as soon as I get the time)  Hasan is a native of Vlasenica. Also, sources tell me Hasan´s book in currently being translated into english. So look out for that. I will also be writing more about Vlasenica in the future.

Vita Kränkta (Kultur) Män

kränktis

Ca en timme efter att jag hade lämnat flera kommentarer på Jasenko Selimovic Facebook-vägg om Knausgårds försvar av  författaren och folkmordsförnekaren Peter Handke fick jag ett argt telefonsamtal från Selimovic som gnällde om det jag skrev om Karl Ove Knausgård. Knausgård var inte den ende  (Fd) KULTURMANNEN som var kränkt den här veckan. Jag tänker inte skriva vad han sa men det var fullständigt oacceptabelt och ovärdigt en man i hans position.  Det räcker med att säga att jag hade KRÄNKT Jasenko. Jag tror inte att han hade reagerat så hade om Ozan och Cissi hade skrivit någonting liknande på hans FB-vägg. Jag hade sårat Jasenko djupt…

Nu spekulerar jag bara så klart (not really) men jag skulle tro att kränkningen låg i det faktum att jag hade påpekat någonting som flesta svenskbosnier, eller rättare sagt de svenskbosnier som Selimovic är Facebook-vän med inte visste mycket om. Nämligen det faktum att samma man vars text Selimovic hyllade (Knausgård) var Peter Handkes främsta försvarare under den långa och bitvis bittra debatten som rasade i flera månader i Norge. Det faktum att jag påpekade detta gjorde Selimovic sårbar och sur då han har byggt upp ett rykte som någon som har aktivt kämpat mot folkmordsförnekare de sista fem-sex åren här i Sverige, någonting som har (med allt rätt) gett honom mycket beröm och respekt bland svenskbosnier och eventuellt en del röster för Folkpartiet. Skulle det komma fram att han hyllade en man som hade av den Norska Helsingforskommitén anklagats för “hvitvasking” dvs ett försök att förminska vad Peter Handke hade sagt och skrivit gällande krigen i forna Jugoslavien och folkmordet i Bosnien skulle det va dåligt…(duh!)

Den bekantskapen och FB-vänskapen tog slut den dan 😦 Jag tänkte inte mer på det förrän på kvällen då en vän frågade om jag inte skulle svara på Selimovic kommentar som tydligen förvrängde allt jag hade sagt. Vännen skickade över en skärmdump och som väntat hade jag tydligen sagt både det ena och det andra. Jag kan förstå hans situation och försvaret av Kanusgårds text framförallt med tanke på att hela det svenska borgerligheten är i extas över Kanusgårds självömkande text (enligt säkra källor så ejakulerade Erik Helmersson & Ivar Arpi  medan de läste texten)

Ett svar är på sin plats.

1) Min första kommentar syftade till den långa artikeln där Knausgård utmålade sig själv som offer trots att han publiceras i landets största tidningar, hans böcker säljer som smör här i “Cyklopernas Land” och att det är i själva verket kritiken som han inte tål, att alla kan inte se geniet Knausgård utan att vissa av oss ser en självömkande privilegierad man som uppenbart inte ser hur privilegierad han är. Jag kunde ha uttryckt mig bättre men jag tog mig tiden att läsa en fruktansvärt lång text som fick plats i Sveriges största dagstidning av en man som hävdar att man försöker tysta ner honom (!) och två meningar var det enda jag orkade få fram. Jag var utmattad och ska jag vara helt ärlig: deprimerad efter att ha läst Knausgårds text.  Jonas Gardell förklarade det så mycket bättre & senare även Robin Enander & Aleksa Lundberg.

2) Min klagomål på Knausgård var inte ”allmän” utan jag pekade specifikt på ett antal saker, däribland Knausgårds försvar av Handke som var byggt på halmgubbe-argument. Har man yttrandefrihet så kan man påpeka när någon förnekar eller relativiserar brott mot mänskligheten och folkmord framförallt då offrens anhöriga och överlevare är fortfarande vid liv och den politiken som orsakade folkmordet är också med och plågar landet. Kanusgårds försvar av Handke har dissekerats i en mängd artiklar. En del av yttrandefriheten är rätten att kunna kritisera folk. När det gäller Kanusgårds författarskap så kan jag faktiskt inte uttala mig, jag har inte läst hans verk och min uppfattning om honom kommer utifrån de artiklar han har skrivit här i Sverige och i Handkedebatten.

3) Enligt Selimovic var Kanusgårds åsikt om till priset Handke ”förfärligt oreflekterat” vilket är också ett sätt förminska Knausgårds roll och hur starkt han försvarade Handke. Debatten pågick i flera månader och var bland de smutsigare jag har sett och slagen under bältet kom från Kanusgård och hans bundsförvanter som klamrade sig fast vid halmgubbe-argument och kunde aldrig svara på de många frågor som ställdes av en lång rad insatta människor. Knausgård visste mycket väl vad han gjorde. Om man leker med tanken att det hade rört sig om Nobelpriset i litteratur och utdelningen var här i Sverige och Handke hade försvarats av Åsa Linderborg (hon och Erik Wjik har försvarat Björn Eklund, även om hon verkar ha gått vidare till att vara Putins nyttiga idiot.) eller någon annan från vänster så hade Selimovic inte tvekat utan hade gått till angrepp mot henne eller vem de nu må vara (med all rätt) dock med en svepande ton och passat på att samla politiska poäng genom att anklaga hela vänstern i Sverige och undrat hur de kan se sig själva i spegeln o.s.v Men, skulle Handke bli aktuell för Nobelpriset och han återigen försvaras av Kanusgård så misstänker dock jag att Selimovic skulle vara betydligt lugnare. (En diskussion om Knausgård/Handke och hur lämpligt det var att priset gick till Handke fördes öppet i Norge men Selimovic fegade ur)

4) Jag har rätt att kritisera Handke för hans försvar av Milosevic och hur smart är det egentligen att belöna såna människor med priser som oftast finansieras av skattepengar? Vad skickar det för budskap? Jag var inte ensam om det. Jag har också rätt att kritisera Kanusgård, jag var inte ensam där heller, en rad norska författare och den Norska Helsingforskommitén kritiserade honom också och det hade inte med hans författarskap att göra.  Jag kommer inte sluta läsa verk av författare som har “dålig moral”  är “kontroversiella” eller som har sagt någonting dumt, på mina bokhyllor har jag Hunter S. Thompson,( man har inte levt om man inte har läst Hunter S. Thompson) Ellis, Vonnegut och faktiskt Branko Copic och Miroslav Krleza (som inte är på nåt sätt kontroversiella, vet inte vad Jasenko snackar om????)  …  men jag känner ändå att jag måste dra gränsen någonstans. Jag drar den nog vid  folkmordsförnekelse, och framförallt då offren är folk som jag känner eller är släkt med. Visst är jag självisk? Andra får läsa Handke och Knausgård hur mycket de vill….

Men för att vara rättvis, Jasenko är bara en fotsoldat i en all mer uppskruvad strid och  som varje lojal soldat så gör det han måste. Borgerligheten är i extas över Knausgårds text. Det är därför som ni kommer fortsätta hitta honom till höger om Jonas Khemiri, till höger om strukturell rasism, till höger om Jonas Gardell & Aleksa Lundberg oavsett om de har har rätt eller fel. Som vi säger i Bosnien: Jasenko se bavi politikom. Odjebi Jasenko.

Selimovic kommentar till mig. Tack till D.
Selimovic kommentar till mig. Tack till D.