Last month´s attack on two Bosnian journalists in Dobrun, near Bosnia-Serbia border, at a place called Undrulje but dubbed by members of the Ravna Gora Chetnik movement as “Mala Draževina” (Little Draževina) shone a light at one of the most disturbing and frequently overlooked aspects of life in the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska. The yearly commemoration of the Nazi-collaborationist Ravna Gora Chetnik movement and their leader Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović in Dobrun, part of the Višegrad municipality, Višegrad and Dobrun were a scene of some of the worst atrocities committed against Bosniak civilians in the Bosnian war, as Predrag Blagovćanin points out resulting in the death of at 1.760 civilians (according to the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo) of which at least 100 were children.
50 years earlier, during WW2 Višegrad and its Bosniak community was subjected to atrocities carried out by Chetnik forces in which over 3000 people; men, women and children were systematically killed. As historians Vladimir Dedijer and Antun Miletić point out in their book: Genocid nad Muslimanima (Genocide of the Muslims, Svjetlost 1990) Višegrad was a scene of a string of massacres carried out by Chetnik forces working under the protection of the Italian occupation force. Massacres in the summer, fall, and winter of 1941-42 where over 1500 people were killed and again in the fall of 1943 when 2000 people were killed by Chetnik forces. (By then the Italians had left Bosnia, the Axis and the war.) The description of the massacres of Bosniaks that took place throughout Eastern Bosnia during WW2 in Vladimir Dedijer and Antun Miletić´s book, the systematic nature of the mass killings and the ideology behind the genocide (The Chetnik ideoluges genocidal intent was clear, as seen by their instructions) as well as the names of the places: Višegrad, Foča, Goražde, Rogatica, Vlasenica,Čajniče and Srebrenica sends a chill down the reader´s spine, for those of us who have spent years learning about the genocide of the 90s the similarities are eerie.
As Blagovćanin points out in his article the gathering in Dobrun and the celebration of an ideology which during the the 90s (as was the case during WW2) and the iconography that followed with it was used as mechanism for ethnic cleansing which resulted in the death of close to 2000 people. Sadly, gatherings of this nature still permitted by law, to this day there has not been a majority in Bosnian institutions for passing a ban on this kind and similar types of gatherings, commemorations and celebrations which mean to idealise fascist and quisling movements.
According to another Bosnian writer; Filip Mursel Begović, in an article on the 18th of March; according to some estimates there are tens of thousands Chetniks, they are mostly registered as members of “NGO´s” and are for the most part highly motivated, wearing uniforms with officer insignia on them which as Begović says; means that there is a hierarchy and a command chain, and when there is a hierarchy means that if you add guns we have a military formation. Begović also points out that; they wear fascist uniforms with labels that they had on in 1940s and 1990s when they engaged in mass slaughter and rape of Bosniaks. They are in Begović´s opinion the biggest security threat in Bosnia today.
Another overlooked aspect which Begović points to about Chetniks in Bosnia is the fact that in 2008 there were 60,000 registered so-called “long barrels” (duge cjevi) i.e hunting rifles in Republika Srpska, eight years later no one knows the exact number but by now it could be double that. Many of the members of various Chetnik chapters around Republika Srpska are also members of various hunting associations and have legal firearms.
Despite the outrage the incident in Dobrun caused in many parts of Bosnia, and the despite the fact it´s known there are thousands of men in Republika Srpska who consider themselves part of this movement, many of them armed and in uniform, the minister of security: Dragan Mektić former member of VRS, Army of Republika Srpska, whose commander-in- chief was sentenced to 40 years in prison for persecution, murder, kidnapping, deportation, terror, and genocide carried out against civilian population of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not consider these men a security threat. Sadly, the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with all three ethno-nationalist blocks all equally corrupt means that high-ranking political appointments are rarely given to competent people and for the most part resemble more horse-trading then anything else. In all likelihood Mektić was a compromise, and questioning how his past as a soldier in an army where many of the men who now wear the Chetnik uniform served (and given the ideology at the heart of Republika Srpska ) reflects his performance as minister of security is not unreasonable.
It´s also not unreasonable to wonder what role these men, thousands of them would play should Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik make good on his longstanding threat to secede from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina? Specially now that Serb nationalists and separatists don´t have the former JNA with it´s massive arsenal to back them. It should be said though that it´s a common held belief that Dodik´s threats of secession are a form of blackmail to use against the international community in Bosnia, much of it directed towards securing his own position and wealth and avoid ending up in jail should the day come and he has to pay for embezzling millions of taxpayer’s money during a decade in power in RS, a decade in which he has turned the entity into his own fiefdom.
As I wrote last year opposition politicians in RS have accused Dodik of turning the MUP RS (Ministry of the Interior) into his own praetorian guard and trying to silence critical voices by accusing them of calling for the destruction and undermining of the institutions of Republika Srpska, especially the Ministry of Interior. That accusation was levelled by Dragan Lukač, head of MUP RS, considered to be one Milorad Dodik´s closest aides.
And as I wrote in January Dodik-controlled media, including the Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine (which ironically translates to Independent Newspaper) has also accused his critics of working for “foreign centres of power” most prominently George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, which of course plays nicely with the already excesivly paranoid Serb nationalist belief that the Vatican, CIA, IMF, Great Britain and of course Germany are working against the Serbs. Along with the “traitorous” and “conniving” Bosniaks and Croats all done in order to destroy the “great Serbian nation”. Conspiracy theories happily spread by Milošević´s media during the wars of the 90s and now recycled by Dodik in order to keep people from asking why they don´t have any jobs and why their stomachs are empty while Mile Dodik flies around in helicopters, private jets, is driven around in limousines, and as Lily Lynch pointed out for The Balkanist in 2014: hypocritically spending millions of their taxpayer money on consultants and lobbyists in Washington D.C all designed to keep him in power, while his media talks about western conspiracies intended to destroy the Serbs.
The annual commemoration at Undrulje and the iconography used and the ideology behind the Chetnik movement is also stark reminder of what Bosniak returnees to this part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina have to deal with on a daily basis. Sadly during all the reporting and the outrage expressed over the incident in “Little Draževina” the media failed to interview any Bosniak returnees to Višegrad municipality and ask them about their experiences given that the municipality has now become a hub for adherents to an ideology fully comparable to the KKK and other white supremacists, with the added fact that the same ideology fuelled two genocides with 50 years apart. Needless to say, during those 50 years apart the movement was banned on territory of the former Yugoslavia and the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On 29th of August last year in Dobrun, not far from “Little Draževina” a memorial was erected to the 131 Bosniak civilians murdered in this village during the Bosnian war. The memorial was built on the grounds of the now re-built Emperor’s Mosque (Careve džamije), one of oldest mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina built in 1445. (The mosque was destroyed by Serb extremists in 1992 along with all the other ones in Višegrad municipality and re-bulit in 2006) According to the president of the association „Dobrun – Stari grad“, Esad Hrustić, it was difficult to collect information on all the names of those killed in Dobrun. Most of it was done by interviewing the surviving family members of those killed in Dobrun, the list is not complete. According to Hrustić, they had to do something, “our ancestors, our brothers and sisters deserve that we finally do something like this”.
The ceremony was attended by Dobrun´s pre-war Bosniak residents as well as returnees to this part of Višegrad municipality. Like all Bosniak or rather non-Serb returnees to parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that were “ethnically cleansed” by the “Great Serb” forces of Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić the returnees to this part of Bosnia, one the very border with Serbia have been subjected to various forms of abuse. The emperor´s mosque, re-built in 2006 was vandalized last year. According to Bilal ef. Memišević, head of Višegrad´s Muslim Parish, unknown persons broke into the mosque, destroyed the windows, damaged the doors, destroyed the sound system, the computer in the mosque along with the lights as well as the carpets and stole a hundred meters of cable from the mosque. According to Memišević, the incident was reported to the police but he doubted that those responsible would be caught, given past experiences. Memišević pointed out that it was telling that the incident took place ahead of the annual ceremony commemorating the genocide of Bosniaks in Višegrad.
Bosnian media as well as Balkan Insight reported yesterday about the arrest of six members of the Bosnian entity – Republika Srpska´s police force, more correct the the RS MUP ( Ministry of the Interior) for an “armed heist” carried out against an armoured car belonging to Sector Security while they were carrying out a money transfer from Banja Luka to Zagreb for Unicredit Bank.
The attack on the Sector Security armoured car took place on the 22nd of September last year and the perpetrators got away with 616,000 BAM or 300,000 €. According to Balkan Insight the perpetrators were armed with machine guns, AK-47´s and an anti-tank rocket launcher M-80 “Zolja” a former Yugoslav version of the American M72 LAW. Gunfire was exchanged during the armed robbery, with one of the guards sustaining injuries.
According to Radio Sarajevo; during the day yesterday it was confirmed that one of the men arrested was part of Serbian prime-minister Aleksandar Vučić´s security detail in Potocari memorial during Vučić´s controversial visit to the memorial of the victims genocide in Srebrenica.
Follwing the arrest of the six members of MUP RS some opposition politicians in RS, most prominently Milanko Mihajlica have been asking for the resignation of RS minister of the interior; Dragan Lukač, as well as the entire RS government. According to Mihaljica in any democratic society this kind of thing would lead to the resignation of the government. According to him these types of scandals have been taking place within MUP RS for a longer period of time now. He reminded the journalists at a press conference today that members of the RS police have taken part in drug trafficking and that investigations are under way about police officers taking part in prostitution rackets and human trafficking.
As I wrote last year in the aftermath of the police raid on Bosnian news-site Klix.ba: people like Dragan Lukač and other prominent members of MUP RS, like Siniša Kostrešević have long been seen by opposition in RS as well media in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a loyal servants to the Dodik-regime, and the men responsible for transforming MUP RS into what is essentially Milorad Dodik´s own Praetorian Guard.
Two weeks ago Dragan Lukač accused blogger Slobodan Vaskovič of trying to “destroy the institutions of the entity.” According to Lukač “for years, Slobodan Vaskovič with his blog has been calling for the destruction and undermining of the institutions of Republika Srpska, especially the Ministry of Interior”.
The bizarre claim, that a blogger can “destroy the institutions of RS” shows the conspiratorial nature and the volatility of the Dodik-regime and his aides. Vaskovič has not made his feelings about the RS government a secret, regularly calling it a criminal organisation on his blog which is more or less exclusively dedicated to documenting the malfeasance and criminal activity of the leading politicos in RS.
Aside from the bizarre attack on Vaskovič, Nezavisne Novine, a prominent Banja Luka daily, considered by independent commentators in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be under the control of the Dodik-regime published an outlandish conspiracy theory taken from Alex Jones Infowars site titled: TOP TEN SOROS TARGETS IN 2016.
The list, nuttiest one of 2016 so far, treads the well-known far-right conspiraloon path, accusing George Soros and his Open Society Foundation along with the CIA of masterminding plots in Haiti, Ukraine, Venezuela, China, Serbia and of course Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016. In Bosnia, apparently Soros aims to take down Milorad Dodik as well as the current Serbian goverment. Needless to say Infowars does not offer any kind of evidence to support their claim, but you know, they´re “truthtellers” so absence of empirical evidence is not really that important and it fits in nicely into the narrative developed by the Dodik-regime of “foreign centres of power trying to destroy Republika Srpska.”
The claims made in the Infowars list about Bosnia and Herzegovina most likely stem from a Sputnik Serbia article from last year titled: “The secret plan for the take-down of Milorad Dodik”. Hopefully by now it has not escaped most sane commentators that Sputnik is along with RT, formerly Russia Today part of Kremlin´s propaganda effort aimed at the west. In Sweden for example Sputnik has re-published articles from Fria Tider, a nationalist outlet that according to Swedish EXPO is run by among others people with ties to the far-right Sweden Democrats and a shady buisness man.
Not surprisingly Fria Tider re-publishes articles regularly from Sputnik Sweden including this one about Russia banning George Soros´s Open Society. According to the article in Fria Tider: “the philanthropic organisation spends most of its time dedicated to the spread of cultural-marxist ideals such as multi-culturism, LGBTQ-rights and feminism in Russia and Eastern Europe.” That quote should make it clear just what kind of an outlet Fria Tider is.
According to claims made by Dodik in the Sputnik Serbia article; “he could find himself on the receiving end of a plot by certain groups that don´t like his politics, which are in the interest of the population of Republika Srpska.” According to the article Sputnik has been privy to a “secret plan of action” by the opposition in RS agreed upon with “certain international centres” who aims to destroy the current RS government led by Dodik. Of course, the Sputnik article does not present any evidence of a secret plot, a plot it´s been “privy to” and most of the article is a rant by Dodik about his critics, including opposition parties, various news-outlets that have criticized him about corruption, nepotism and poverty in RS and so on. I suppose that Dodik´s rant is the “secret plan” they have been “privy to”.
That Dodik appears on Sputnik is of course not a surprise. Already back in March 2014 Guardian´s Ian Traynor and Julian Borger reported on the ties between Milorad Dodik and Moscow. Same month as Russia annexed Crimea Dodik travelled to Moscow where he was reportedly treated as a hero by the Russian Orthodox Church as well as meeting with Sergei Lavrov and a photo-op with Vladimir Putin. According to Traynor and Borger the most likely reason for the trip was in order to secure “Russian funding order to be able to wreck a two-year International Monetary Fund standby agreement with Bosnia, conditioned on slimming down the bloated government apparatus in both halves of the country.” In return, Putin asked for vocal support over Crimea, and got it.
In his interview with Sputnik, Dodik brought up among other things the planned referendum about the state-level judicial system in Bosnia and his desire for a referendum on the state-level judiciary. According to Dodik he has been subjected to “threats” in regards to his desire for a referendum on the matter. However As James Lyon pointed out in October last year for Foreign Policy Magazine; Milorad Dodik´s distaste for a state-level judiciary has more to do with the fact that he fears being indicted for corruption then anything else.
I hadn´t really intended to write as much about this as I did, I realise it may appear somewhat disjointed. My intention was to simply write more about the spectacular robbery and the aftermath then the few lines it got in Balkan Insight but I couldn´t help adding the Infowars nutty conspiracy and Kremlin propaganda´s far-right fellow travellers posing as “alternative media”. Didn´t know when I would get a chance again to write about that 😉
At the end of last month I wrote a lengthy post here about the abuse and discrimination leveled against returnees in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been “ethnically cleansed” during the Bosnian war. While attacks of this nature have taken place throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina over the years, most of the attacks have taken place in part of the country that was the scene of some of the most brutal pogroms and genocidal violence in Europe since the WWII, Republika Srpska. Once envisioned as an ethnically pure part of a “Greater Serbia” by its creators including Radovan Karadzić, currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, RS remains a part of Bosnia today, it´s wartime legacy of crimes against humanity, segregation and persecution of non-Serbs is still evident today in what has now become institutionalized historical revisionism, with war crimes denial, genocide denial and the abuse of basic rights guaranteed by the Dayton Accords, including the right of children of returnees in RS to attend classes in the bosnian language.
Aside from documenting the attacks on returnees to Republika Srpska this year I wrote about something that has sadly and worryingly become a common occurrence during sports events in Serbia, Republika Srpska or involving teams from those countries, as well as teams from other countries in the Balkans, including Slovenia. But to this date it´s has mostly involved sections of Serb fans, extreme nationalist elements. The chant; Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
The chant rhymes in Serbian and translates to Knife, Wire, Srebrenica, glorying the genocide in Srebrenica it refers to the now well known fact that the Bosniak prisoners executed in Srebrenica had their hands tied behind their back with barbwire. So while Serb nationalist propagandists and their sympathizers and fellow travelers in the west have now embarked on a 20 year campaign to obscure, belittle and deny what happened in and around that Bosnian town in July 1995, Serb extremists on the other hand openly take pride in the slaughter, celebrate it and call for a “repeat” (See my original article)
One such incident took place about two weeks after I had written my original post, at the Eurobasket game between Serbia and Turkey on 9th of September a group of Serb fans wore a T-shirt with a photo Ratko Mladic on it, written on the T-shirt was “Free Ratko Mladić- Serbian Hero” Mladić is currently on trial for war crimes and genocide.
While Bosnian portal, Fokus.ba published a photo from the same game where one of the Serb fans is wearing a t-shirt that says Noz-Zica-Srebrenica on the back, in Cyrillic. There were no actions taken by the organizers of Eurobasket 2015 against the Serb fans, despite the fact that the fans clearly stood out, especially the ones with the Ratko Mladić T-shirts. Of course several Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian news-sites reported on the incidents. One explanation could be that the organizers simply were not aware of this phenomenon which takes place every time Serbia either plays Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Turkey or Albania and almost certainly Kosovo in the near future.
Footage of “Grobari” supporters group of the Serbian football club Partizan Belgrade, singing Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
Serb nationalist Hip-hop song titled Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
Like I wrote above, while Serb nationalist propagandists and their sympathizers and fellow travelers in the west try to minimize the genocide, Serb extremists happily post clips on Youtube glorifying the genocide in various ways, as you can see here.
On the morning of august 12th at around four o´clock four Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) youngsters walking down the center of Prijedor were stopped by a four Serb thugs near the Kozara bakery. According to one of the young men who was attacked the Serbs asked the four Bosniaks if they were “Balije” (A derogatory term for Bosniaks, equivalent to the N-word or “Paki”) and where they were from. Apparently the boys tried to laugh it all off when they were suddenly attacked by the nationalist thugs. One of the boys sustained heavy injures during the beating. According to Balkan Insight the boy that was hospitalized said that he didn´t want to fall for the provocation, even offering shake hands, when he turned around there was no indication that something might happen, it was at that moment that he was hit on the left side of his face and lower lip, the second blow brought him down on the floor.
As Balkan Insight points out the attack follows a string of similar incidents in the past few months in Prijedor, Bosniak weddings have been marred by verbal altercations and fist fights between the wedding guests and some angry Serbs, who apparently were angered to see the Bosnian state flag in the wedding motorcade. Two other Bosniaks were attacked by Serbs in a café in Prijedor this summer, one of them was apparently wearing a shirt with the Bosnian state flag on it. Aside from that several cars belonging to Bosniak returenees have also been set on fire in Prijedor area recently, according to Balkan Insight. Prijedor as well as the surrounding area was subjected to some of the most brutal “ethnic cleansing” of the Bosnian war, with some 4,200 dead. The systematic mass killings and pogroms are also known as the Prijedor genocide. The area was also home to a string of notorious Serb concentration camps: Omarska-Trnopolje-Keraterm.
On the 13th of July 2015, two days after the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, as a group of faithful were breaking fast and getting ready for the Iftar meal on the grounds of the town mosque in Prijedor when someone started throwing rocks into the courtyard. Luckily no one was injured due to the fact that a large tent was set up in the courtyard for the meal. According to the local imam; Omer-ef. Redzic this was just a continuation of attacks on Bosniak Muslims during Ramazan (Ramadan) He was of course referring to the incident in Doboj in June 2015 where a similar event was marred by a group of Serb ultra-nationalists who according to reports shouted various anti-Bosniak curses as well as chanting war criminal Ratko Mladic´s name. (Mladic is currently on trial for war crimes and genocide) As well as number of other attacks on mosques in Republika Srpska and other incidents involving returnees to eaither Republika Srpska or southern Hercegovina.
A video of Serb nationalists chanting Ratko Mladic´s name a few hundred yards from the meal.
The incident in June was not the first of this kind. In March this year, a supporter group for the local football (soccer) team in Doboj named “Vojvode” after the Nazi-collaborationist & Serb nationalist Chetniks and their dukes (Vojvode) displayed a banner written in cyrillic in the local park saying: “Poturice odvratne mnogo ste nam mrski, Doboj je bio i ostace Srpski” which translates to: Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb. They were celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the supporter group. “Poturice” is another derogatory term for Bosniaks used by both Serb and Croat nationalists.
Most Bosniaks living in Doboj today are returnees. Prior to the war and the “cleansing” of the town by Serb forces, Doboj was a mainly Bosniak town. According to the 1991 census Bosniaks made up the majority in Doboj. Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo says there are over 2,300 dead or missing people listed in the Doboj area from the war. Doboj was also a scene of several horrific war crimes commited against the town´s non-Serb population. Including systematic mass killings, rape, and torture. On 26th of September 1997 Nikola Jorgic, leader of Serb paramilitary unit in Doboj was found guilty by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) on eleven counts of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment. Jorgic was the first person to be found gulity of genocide for crimes committed Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the ICD (International Crimes Database) he was found responsible for the killing of 22 villagers in Grabska (including elderly and disabled) and seven villagers in Sevarlije. In addition to murder he also arrested Bosniak civilians, and subsequently detained and abused them in detention camps.
On September 1, 2014 several news agencies including BBC and IBT reported that Bosnian police had arrested 13 former Bosnian Serb police and soldiers suspected of participating in the massacre of 40 people in Bosnian town Teslic. The men were arrested in Doboj and Teslic. A number of those arrested were members of a notorious Serb paramilitary unit called “Miće”. The unit was formed in a secret JSO (Jedinica za specijalne operacije ) run camp on Mount Ozren overlooking Doboj, JSO are better known simply as the Red Berets, or “The Unit”, elite state sanctioned killers within the notorious Serbian State Security. Others arrested were prominent members of wartime Bosnian Serb police.
Back in 2010 during the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic a protected witness told how he came to be recruited by JSO or “The Unit” according to his testimony he was recruited in the beginning of 1992 and received his training with about 50 other recruits in the camp on Mount Ozren above Doboj. The commander of the camp was Radojica “Rajo” Bozovic. According to the witness, Bozovic was also from JSO, he was a lieutenant-colonel with the Red Berets.
The Red Berets came down from Mount Ozren and attacked Doboj. In the weeks after Red Berets swept down on Doboj the town was througly “cleansed” of its non-Serb inhabitants. As was the neighboring town Teslic. Both towns were strategically important for Serbs in establishing a corridor to Banja Luka.
In May this year the mayor of Doboj, Obren Petrovic made an appeal to the police in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole and the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina on behalf of Doboj´s Bosniak and Croats communities which he said had come under attack after the decision of the Doboj Municipal Assembly to join an association of municipalities with historic links to Turkey. Bosnia and Doboj once being part of the Ottoman Empire can apply to join the association called Union of Turkish Economic Municipalities. The decision of Doboj´s (Serb) mayor to join the association has sparked outrage among hardline Serb nationalists in Doboj, the Serb Orthodox Church and Milorad Dodik´s nationalist SNSD who have all denouced the decision. According to Petrovic since the decision to join the association he has received death threats as well as threats that have been leveled against the Bosniak community in Doboj. For that Petrovic places the blame on Milorad Dodik and his SNSD, calling on Dodik to stop his fear-mongering, saying that this won´t end well and that someone will get killed sooner or later.
A report from Doboj in May 2015 showed the growing fear of the Bosniak and Croat communities in Doboj in the wake of the decision to join the Turkish association. Just a few days before the arrival of the journalists in Doboj the statues on the main square had been painted over with a fresh coat of paint. Under the paint was graffiti calling for murder and expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from Doboj.
According to the vice-president of the local assembly, Pejo Krnjic, behind the quiet façade and the peace in the town things look more and more like they did just before the war. He believes that Milorad Dodik´s SNSD has fanned the flames of nationalism and awaken old ghosts and instructed some people to rebel against the decision, adding that few countries helped Doboj as much as Turkey did directly after the floods but that now once that ordeal has passed they are no good anymore, adding that hate-speech is more and more common now in the town and that SNSD and Milorad Dodik simply can´t stand the fact that they are not in power here so the party is doing everything to turn people against each other, and Dodik also has the help of the media in Republika Sprska. According to Krnjic he was amazed to see how the Bosniaks who had suffered tremendously through the war and had now returned to their homes in Doboj put up with with the pressure. Adding that even the returning Croats feel scared. “I can´t say that it´s the same for them as it´s for the Bosniaks but of course they too sense that something is not right, they ask me a lot what to do, of course I always say there won´t be another war” says Krnjic.
Murvet Bajraktarevic, a Bosniak member of the local assembly and vice president of a football team Sloga says that hate-speech is sadly present even in sports. “As my club, where half of the players are Bosniaks come out on the field they are greeted with “kill balije”, “Knife Wire Srebrenica” “We´ll slaughter balije” aside from that there are the “Vojvode” the so called supporters of Sloga, who root for their team, in which there are Bosniak players by calling for them to be killed. It´s horrifying” says Bajraktarevic.
Dragan Markovic, the general secretary of the Association of National Minorities in the Doboj region says that it´s unheard of that supporters of a team a calling on the murder of that team´s players, saying that some of the Bosniak players, after a game where the fans cheered the club by calling for the “slaughter of Bosniaks” wanted to leave the game but decided to stay on the pitch. Both Markovic and Bajraktarevic say they reported each time they came across graffiti with hate speech, as well as reporting the supports, “Vojvode” but that thus far nothing has come of that. Markovic says that sometimes he loses the will to do anything, to report the things he sees, saying that the Serb police in Doboj harass him asking him where he´s from, when he was born etc.. “It feels like having your blood sucked through a straw for no use whatsoever”
Bajraktarevic, Krnjic i Markovic all believe that “Vojvode” are supported and instructed by Milorad Dodik´s SNSD, saying that they were the main agitators when it came to the protests against the decision to the join the Union of Turkish Municipalities’ and that they are constantly expanding, new members being brought in from other parts of RS.
As Banja Luka based writer Dragan Brusac pointed out in March when the trouble started, nobody bothered to find out what this union was all about before attacking the mayor of Doboj. The media blitz against Petrovic was led by Milorad Dodik´s media which includes among other things, Public Service Broadcasting in RS and several newspapers.
As Brusac explained to those who yet clearly didn´t know, the Union of Turkish Municipalities´ was simply an association who can thru investments, donations and other funding help not only themselves but municipalities outside Turkey. As Brusac notes, “if you have half a brain you will join this union in order to benefit your, in this case a Bosnian municipality.” Brusac goes on to say “that given the current situation in Doboj, where the population is close to starvation and knowing that the town was devastated during last year’s floods doesn´t it make sense and isn´t it basically the most humane thing you can do ? To join an economic union like this? At the very least it can´t hurt. People in Doboj don´t have anything to eat, The Red Cross is turning people back because there is no food left, and 50 % of the people going to the Islamic Community´s soup kitchen in Doboj are Serbs, not because they have converted to Islam but because they are hungry. The soup kitchen hands out 1300 meals daily.”
As Brusac points out, Doboj already has similar arrangements with towns in Croatia, Italy, Greece, Slovenia and several other countries without it bothering anyone. And why would it?
Milorad Dodik knows very well that he can arouse the passions of boneheaded Serb nationalists and extremists by simply mentioning Turkey and alluding to various things without them knowing or really wanting to know the background or that it may very well benefit them as well as rest of the citizens of Doboj, be they Bosniaks, Serbs Croats or others. Given that Dodik controls most of the media in RS it´s easy for him to bring his message across. Disinformation, hate speech and scare mongering has led to verbal abuse and physical attacks on returnees across RS and while ethnic tensions continue to mount nobody is paying attention to more pressing issues, like reconciliation, state of the education in the country, healthcare, welfare, economy, discrimination, equal rights for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina´s citizens. The incidents present a prefect smokescreen for the massive state-wide robbery orchestrated by Milorad Dodik and other politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina that´s been going on for years.
The incidents in Doboj and Prijedor also highlighted once again the situation returnees face in Republika Srpska, where along with institutionalized genocide denial and discrimination they face the wrath of various easily manipulated Serb extremist groups. As another Banja Luka-based writer and debater Srdjan Puhalo pointed out on twitter, the fact that little more than a year ago Doboj was struggling with the floods that devastated large parts of Bosnia last year and that the first to rush to the aid of the citizens of Doboj were the police, rescue workers and citizens of mainly Bosniak town of Tesanj ( in the BiH Federation) who struggled to get to Doboj which was cut off. Bringing food, blankets, medical supplies and other necessities’ to fellow Bosnians trapped in Doboj.
Smeta vam iftar u Doboju, a nije vam smetala hrana i voda iz Tesnje i camci iz Bihaca kada ste bili 2 metra pod vodom, ne valja vam poso Srb
People from Tesanj were joined by a group of rafters from the Una-Aqua Centar (Bihac) who used their rafting equipment to rescue the stranded all the way from Bihac which in the north-west of the country and on the border with Croatia. ( Bihac was subjected to a 3.5 year seige by both Bosnian Serb forces and rebel Croatian Serb forces from RSK). The Bihac crew made their way to Sanski Most, Kljuc, Maglaj and other towns regardless of where they were i.e. regardless if it was in the Federation or RS. One of the towns they reached was Doboj looking for people who couldn´t get out of their houses and flats.
Shortly after they reached Doboj, one of the people who they rescued, Mladen Blagojevic, wrote on his Facebook-page: “they were they only ones who came for us and brought us food. Guys came voluntarily from Bihac! To help us! The first morning they came, everyone in the building cried! Later they came with medicine for my uncle who was trapped with me, so that he wouldn´t miss his therapy! Does anybody know the names of these guys??”
Video of mayor Petrovic and a policeman from Doboj thanking their collegues in neighboring Tesanj, the armed forces and others for the aid.
The solidarity on display during the floods was reaffirmed by mayor Petrovic as well as the police in Doboj who thanked their fellow colleagues from Tesanj and other places in the Federation, as well as the armed forces while admitting that the Republika Srpska crisis staff collapsed immediately after the flooding started and that if it hadn´t been for the aid from the BiH Federation they would have died of thirst.
The situation was not that much better in the BiH Federation, the floods in general revealed how much work Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to do in order to avoid the devastation brought on last year and as I wrote above, the money that should have been used for emergency rescue services and adequte protection against flooding had been pilfered by corrupt politicians and/or going to Bosnia´s many layers of goverment (when in fact it, as Tim Judah pointed out: with 3.8 million citizens, the country only needs a mayor ). Police, rescue workers and stranded civilians across the country had to make do with what they had. However despite everything, most Bosnians showed a level of solidarity which hadn´t been seen since before the war and Doboj which had been cleansed of its Bosniak and Croat population during the war was one of the towns that benefited the most from the selfless aid coming from the BiH Federation. Which to a lot of people makes the attacks even harder to take.
Aside from the attacks in Doboj and Prijedor, a young man was attacked in Vlasenica in July this year by nationalist thugs. Mehmed Kljuancic, born 1994 was attacked and had to receive medical treatment for his injures. During the Bosnian war Vlasenica was scene of some of the most brutal ethnic cleansing and mass killings of Bosniaks in the Podrinje region. Back in 2013 a group of survivors of the notorious Susica concentration camp was shocked by what they saw as they made their way to Vlasenica on foot during the annual “The march of return- by road of salvation Susica” A large poster of general Ratko Mladic was placed by the side of the road on the way out of Vlasenica. The poster read; “General… We Are Waiting For you…Your Vlasencani (citizens of Vlasenica)”… (in cyrillic)
Just a few days after the attack in Prijedor, six people were arrested in the small, mainly Croat town of Tomislavgrad in western Hercegovina for an attack on Bosniaks going to morning prayer. According to Balkan Insight as Bosniak faithful were going to morning prayers, ten hooligans entered the village of Omerovici, placed a gas bottle in front of the mosque, opened the valve and verbally and physically attacked the Bosniaks. There were no injures and the gas bottle didn´t ignite. However several cars and at least one house was damaged in the attack. The mayor of Tomislavgrad condemend the attack, saying it was carried out by “drunken hooligans who were passing through the area on their way home.” And that the town government and all political parties were “surprised and appalled.” However the regional centre of the Bosnian Islamic Community in Mostar said that several other ethnic incidents had occured in the same area, and expressed concern for the safety of Bosniaks in that area.
While a group of 30 Bosnian Croats was attacked by a three Serbs in a café in Teslic, in RS. They threatened the Bosnian Croats with an axe, apparently injuring one person with the axe handle. The men were arrested, reportedly drunk. As Balkan Insight points out, media in Bosnia has underlined that almost all incidents that have taken place in the last couple of months were aimed at people who had returned to their pre-war homes, and that returnees in different parts of the country are seeking better protection from the police, which when it comes particularly to Republika Srpska is dominated by Serbs due to the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat population of that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Balkan Insight also points out that at the beginning of the process of return of refugees the international community forced local authorities to hire policemen from those ethnic groups that had returned to their pre-war homes. However after the recent provactions and attacks Bosniak representatives have complained that the number of Bosniaks in the police forces in Republika Srpska has been reduced.
Police in RS has also come under the control of Milorad Dodik, as I wrote in December last year; the raid on the offices of Klix.ba in Sarajevo was carried out by members of MUP RS (Ministry of the Interior) an action that sparked outrage in Bosnia and Sarajevo with several veteran journalists pointing out that apparently Milorad Dodik´s influence reaches beyond Republika Sprska now. And that Klix.ba was going thru what BN TV in RS has been going thru for months and years now. The raid was carried out in an effort to discover the source of an incriminating audiotape of Zeljka Cvijanovic, (SNSD) the prime minister of Republika Srpska and close associate of Milorad Dodik. In mid November Klix.ba published an audiotape where allegedly Cvijanovic and another woman are talking about buying off opponents in Republika Srpska.
This is a shocking and strictly legally speaking unbelievable decision by the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo. He went on to say: “It´s absolutely unbelievable that this kind of brutal attack is allowed on the media in Bosnia and on the freedom of information, given that those freedoms are protected by the constitution and the European convention on basic rights and freedoms, which is a foundation of the Bosnian Constitution. This kind of behavior deserves the reaction and condemnation by the Bosnian public and all forms of media, journalist´s organizations and all those who care about justice and law enforcement in BiH. This kind of brutal attack without any kind of legal basis wasn´t even possible during the 80s, this kind of thing is only possible in Putin´s Russia, Erdogan´s Turkey and in Milorad Dodik´s Republika Srpska.
He added that there is no doubt that the information that Klix.ba published was proof of a scandalous criminal behavior and disregard for the political will of the people in RS by Zeljka Cvijanovic. Instead of prosecuting those that manipulate the electoral process, they hand out reprisals to the media that reports on it. According to Pecanin; “this is look of a totalitarian system and un-democratic society and there is no other explanation for it.
The raid on Klix.ba was led by Sinisa Kostresevic, he is from the same town as Milorad Dodik and had for a while been head of the police in Laktasi, his rise to prominence in both MUP RS and the local police in Laktasi coincided with the rise of Milorad Dodik. Already back in 2011 Bosnian news site Zurnal reported that authorities in RS were planning to “deal with the opposition” in an unlawful matter. One of the leaders of the opposition in RS, Dragan Cavic (DP) said that the police in RS had at that time acquired all new wiretapping equipment and that those officers in charge of such things were replaced by people loyal to SNSD and that the police in Republika Srpska had been “cleansed” of undesirable elements and that the police in RS was now just the extended arm of SNSD. According to Zurnal: MUP RS ( Ministry of the Interior) had spent 1,36 million KM or 513 000 euro on all new wiretapping and surveillance equipment which they purchased from a Belgrade-based firm “Vizus” and that part of the money came from Milorad Dodik´s personal account. Zurnal´s source within MUP RS said that there was no reason for the purchase of new equipment since only two years earlier they had bought all new equipment at the cost of 2.5 million KM. Zurnal´s source within MUP RS also had confirmed t that SNSD had in the past months carried out a “cleansing” of MUP RS appointing people loyal to SNSD. According to the source the man in charge of the “cleansing” was a one; Sinisa Kostresevic who is the man that decides who stays and who goes.
Forensic experts in Holland confirmed this week that the audio tape in which Cvijanovic is among other things overheard talking about buying off political opponents in RS as well lobbying linguists to deny the existence of a Bosnian language is authentic. Milorad Dodik and Cvijanovic had claimed that the audio tape was a forgery. The report from Holland lead to a joint statement by opposition leaders in RS in which they said that the report confirms that the government of RS had lied to the public. The opposition called for a resignation of the RS government saying that it and Zeljka Civjanovic had lost all credibility.
( Note: Noz-Zica-Srebrenica (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica) is a Bosnian Serb, Serbian and anti-Bosniak hate slogan glorifying the genocide in Srebrenica. The chant rhymes in Serbian and can usually be heard on football matches, at rallies held by the Serbian Radical Party, and various Serb nationalist movements. It has become fairly common, with several incidents being recorded in recent years. The chant refers to the now well established fact that many of those executed in the killing fields of Srebrenica had their hands tied behind their back with barb wire.
Most recently a friendly between Bosnia´s and Serbia´s U21 teams played in Modrica in March 2014 was stopped as Serb fans chanted “Ubiji Turcina” (Kill the Turks) and “Noz-Zica-Srebrenica” (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica)
The slogan has also been used outside of Serb nationalist circles, in 2012; during a handball match in Maribor, Slovenia between teams from Maribor and Gradacac, Bosnia and Herzegovina some of the Slovenian fans chanted “Noz-Zica-Srebrenica”
The most notorious incidents to date have been 1) the world cup qualifier between Bosnia and Serbia in Belgrade in 2005 where nationalist fans held up pieces of barbed wire while chanting “Knife-Wire-Srebrenica”. The insults traded between the fans led to a fight in the stands during which 19 people were injured. The fighting in the stands stopped the game and FIFA decided to call it a draw.
2) On the 10th anniversary of the genocide photographer Tarik Samarah ran a giant billboard campaign throughout several cities in Serbia as well as in Zagreb, Croatia using photographs from the genocide in Srebrenica. To the right of each photograph were words: Da vidis, da znas, da pamtis, (That you see, that you know, that you remember). Majority of the 27 giant billboards were destroyed by Serb extremists by spray-painting over the billboards: Noz-Zica-Srebenica (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica) as well as “Ratko Mladic” and “Bice repriza” (There will be a repeat) See: (To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing, by Sarah Wagner. Page 236.) )
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.
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)
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, Mladićhad 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 Krstićverdict 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Office of the High Representative Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dear High Representative Inzko,
We are writing to express our concern about the intention of the authorities in Višegrad to demolish the Pionirska Street house. The Pionirska Street house fire that occurred on June 14, 1992, was one of two incidents in which approximately 60 civilians, including women and children, were burned alive. The second incident took place in the Bikavac settlement on June 27, 1992. The ICTY Judgment, which convicted the perpetrators of these crimes, observed that:
“the Pionirska street fire and the Bikavac fires exemplify the worst acts of inhumanity that one person may inflict upon others. …these horrific events remain imprinted on the memory for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the sheer callousness and cruelty of herding, trapping, and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burned alive.”
Moreover, as part of its Sentencing of the perpetrators for the crimes at Pionirska Street house, the Court took “the gravity of the offence” into account, referring to the particular gravity of the “monstrous mass killings.”2 The Court considered as well the extreme vulnerability of the victims,” who had been “rendered helpless,” victims who included “a seventy-five year old woman” and “six children between the ages of two and four years old, and a two-day-old infant.”3 In its related “Discussion and findings” the Court asserted that:
“By burning the victims and the houses in which they were trapped, Milan Lukić and the other perpetrators intended to obliterate the identities of their victims and, in so doing, to strip them of their humanity. The families of victims could not identify or bury their loved ones. … There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes.”
The Court proceeded to emphasize the perpetrators’ “depravity” in their efforts to kill the victims “in a way calculated to cause the maximum amount of suffering.”
In Višegrad today, the Bikavac house has indeed been entirely obliterated, and the Pionirska Street house is the only remaining evidence of these horrible crimes. The Pionirska Street house serves, in its very existence, as the only memorial to the victims. Unfortunately, it seems to be the official policy in Republika Srpska to deny crimes against humanity and genocide, and to suppress the cultural practice of mourning and memorialization for the victims. The plan to demolish the Pionirska Street house confirms this official policy. If the authorities are permitted to demolish the Pionirska Street house, then their genocide denial in Republika Srpska will have attained to new levels of depravity.
In the face of such efforts to erase the traces of the crime, Mrs. Bakira Hasečić, President of the Association of Women Victims of War, has attempted to restore the Pionirska Street house in order to preserve the memory of the victims. However, as a result of her heroic efforts, Mrs. Hasečić has been investigated for “illegal construction” and for crossing a “red tape,” with which the authorities encircled the house to forbid access to the property. Mrs. Hasečić was persecuted and victimized during the genocide from 1992-1995, and now, as she resists genocide denial, she is being persecuted once again. Thus, it would seem that the perpetrators, who carried out the genocide in 1992, are succeeding once again in the intimidation and persecution of Bosniaks and non-Serbs, and in the destruction civilian homes. Word has reached us that all final appeals to prevent the demolition of Pionirska Street house have been exhausted.
On December 9, 2014, Al Jazeera Balkans published an article by Professor David Pettigrew, in which he reported on remarks that you made in Prague on October 30.6 We found your remarks to be quite encouraging when you described genocide denial as “unbelievable,” and when you referred to the glorification of war criminals in Republika Srpska as simply “unacceptable,” and as being equivalent to “hate speech.” You insisted, moreover, that Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to enact laws against genocide denial and hate speech.
In addition, Professor Pettigrew stated in his article that, on March 18, 2014, he crossed the “red tape” that forbids access to the Pionirska Street house in solidarity with Mrs. Hasečić and in order to respect and honor the memory of the victims of the crime. Further, in the same article, Professor Pettigrew invited you to join him in crossing and defying the “red tape” at the Pionirska Street house in the sense that the “red tape” is a “red line” of genocide denial, hate speech, discrimination, persecution, psychological intimidation and dehumanizing exclusion. Pettigrew wrote: “Let us cross the red line together in remembrance of the victims, in solidarity with the survivors, and in support of human rights.”
Mr. High Representative, we ask you to accept Professor Pettigrew’s invitation to defy the red line of genocide denial so as to preserve Pionirska Street house in remembrance of the victims and also to protect Mrs. Hasečić from further persecution. The situation in Višegrad is indeed dire, and we are seeking your support and intervention now especially because of your recent remarks in Prague. We ask you to demonstrate the moral leadership befitting your position and to intervene before it is too late. We implore you take whatever administrative action is necessary and is in your power to prevent the destruction of the house and to resist genocide denial.
Approximately one year ago we proposed that you declare such atrocity sites as federal or national property such that the survivors would be empowered to create memorials and commemorate the genocide free of interference, denial and the suppression of the truth. Such protected national memorial sites could be established on analogy with the Potočari Memorial Center and Cemetery, which was established by the Office High Representative in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. With the impending demolition of the Pionirska Street house, we believe that now is the time to move forward with such an initiative for Višegrad, Prijedor, Foča, and other “places of pain”7 where survivors have been prevented from mourning and memorializing the victims.
Thank you for your kind consideration.
Sanja Seferović-Drnovšek, J.D., M.Ed.,
Chairperson, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center (BAGI) Member, Illinois Holocaust and Genocide Commission
Prof. Emir Ramić, Chairman,
Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada (IRGC);
Prof. Dr. Rasim Muratović, Director,
Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo;
Prof. Dr. Senadin Lavic, President,
Bosniak Cultural Association “Renaissance”;
Ajla Delkic, Executive Director,
Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina;
Mirsad Duratovic, President,
Association of Detainees “Prijedor ‘92”;
Satko Mujagic, President,
Platform Bosnia and Herzegovina, umbrella organization of Bosnian associations and foundations in the Netherlands.