Sjeverin Abduction

A memorial to the victims of Sjeverin
A memorial to the victims of Sjeverin

On October 22nd 1992, 16 Bosniak civilians, fifteen men and one woman were taken out of a bus traveling from Sjeverin to Priboj. Both Priboj and Sjeverin are in Serbia´s Sandžak region, (with a large Bosniak population), Sjeverin lies on the very border with Bosnia and Herzegovina. People on the bus that morning were going to work in Priboj, the town being one of the main industrial centres in the area. In order to get to Priboj from Sjeverin the bus had to pass thru Bosnia and Herzegovina for a brief period due to the location of the road when it was stopped by Serb paramilitaries in a place called Mioče just across the border. After the initial Serbian attack on Eastern Bosnia by various Serb paramilitary formations, units from Serbian State Security and the former JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) and the ethnic cleansing and massacres that took place in the towns and villages all along the Drina Valley in the spring, summer and fall of 92, that area, ( aside from Srebrenica, Žepa and Goražde ) was now firmly in control of Serb forces.

In order for the workers, especially non-Serb workers to pass through safely the firms they worked for had issued special permits, Serb forces has established a curfew and were checking the buses and cars passing through their area. The bus that morning, like most mornings was full of people going to work and school. One of the survivors of the kidnapping at Mioče was then 13-year-old Admir Džihić who was going to Priboj with his uncle Esad, Admir to school and his uncle to work in Priboj. He recalls that on that day Serb units blocked the road, waiting for the bus, at around 6:30 in the morning 9 heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues entered the bus and started asking for people´s id-cards and permits, yelling “Muslims get out” to the Bosniaks on the bus, 13-year-old Admir managed to avoid the kidnapping as one of the Serb fighters mistook him for a Serb boy named Ilija. His uncle and fifteen other Bosniak passengers were taken out of the bus, the only woman taken, Mevlida Koldžić asked the Serb fighters where they were taking her brother, who was also on the bus, once they knew the two were brother and sister, i.e. both were Bosniaks, the Serb fighters told her to get out too, saying; “if he´s your brother then you come with us too”.

The Serb fighters took out fifteen men and one woman out of the bus and told the driver to drive on, telling the driver that “he saw nothing and heard nothing, and should somebody say something, they´ll know who it was”. The bus drove on and nobody, not one of the Serb passengers on the bus objected to the kidnapping of the people from Sjeverin.

After they were taken out, Serb fighters told them to get in the back of a military truck that was parked nearby. The boy,  arriving at school in Priboj started crying but was too afraid to tell his teacher what was bothering him, while the driver of the bus informed the employer of those kidnapped about what had happened, he in turn informed the police in Priboj. The news of the kidnapping started to spread in Priboj while the police did nothing. Several of the relatives of those taken that day believe that had the police and local authorities acted immediately they would have been able to free those taken within an hour, since everyone knew who it was that had taken them. The bus had arrived on time in Priboj and the police was informed about what had happened.

According to a  documentary by Ivan Markov, Otmica (Abduction) the truck also passed two check points on its way to its final destination across the border in Bosnia; one manned by soldiers of the federal army ( former Yugoslav People´s Army) and one manned by the Serbia´s Ministry of the Interior (MUP). In other words; Lukić and his men were able to pass thru two checkpoints manned by security forces controlled by the Serbian state  while carrying in the back 16 Serbian citizens of Bosniak nationality. At around 12:00 in the afternoon on the 22d a truck was spotted outside of the police station in Višegrad (Bosnia) in the truck was a group of people dressed in civilian clothes, three Serb fighters stood by the truck; Milan Lukić, Oliver Krsmanović and Serb fighter from Goražde known as “Kokošar”. All three were known members of the infamous Serb paramilitary unit Osvetnici (Avengers), responsible for the majority of the atroceties commited agianst the Bosniak population of Višegrad. From the police station the truck headed north towards Hotel and Spa Vilna Vlas, 7 kilometers north from Višegrad. During the war Vilna Vlas was turned into rape camp where Bosniak women and girls were systematically raped by Serb police, paramilitary units and soldiers.

In 2013, Australian actress Kym Vercoe´s play about the Vilna Vlas rape camp was turned into a film (For Those Who Can Tell No Tales) starring herself and filmed in and around Višegrad, including sites of several atrocities, one of those being the house on Pionirska Street where Milan Lukić along with several members of the “Avengers” locked 60 people in house and set it on fire, 53 people were burned alive. Two weeks later Milan Lukić repeated the act on Bikavac, locking 71 people in a house and setting it on fire. He would not reapet his mistake from Pionirska Street, this time only person survived live pyre, Zehra Turjacanin, she agreed to testify against Milan Lukić at the Hague in 2008.

Vilna Vlas
Vilna Vlas

It´s not clear why the 16 were  kidnapped in the first place, there are  speculations that they were taken in order to be exchanged for Serb soldiers held by Bosnian Army, or that it was simply a matter of ethnically cleansing the Bosniak population that lived near the border with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Once at Vilna Vlas the men and one woman kidnapped were severely beaten by their captors, Milan Lukić and his men photographed themselves beating and torturing the victims at the lobby of the Vilna Vlas Hotel. Parts of the footage  was showed in the 2002 documentary made by Markov.  That´s also the last time they were seen alive. After the beating they were most likely taken to the banks of the Drina river and executed. Lukić´s modus operandi was executing the victims at close range and then dumping them in the Drina river. During the 2010 exhumations of Lake Perućac the remains of Medredin Hodžić (one of the kidnapped) were identified along with 250 others exhumed from the dried lakebed. The others are still missing, their remains unaccounted for. As I wrote last year; the heroic effort to exhume the bodies at Perućac lakebed was a last ditch effort and it happened by accident: In 2010 a small boat got stuck in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plant, in order for the turbines to be repared the dam had to be emptied. That gave people from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina what was in effect their last chance to track down the bodies of of Bosniak civilians who had been killed in Visegrad and dumped into the Drina River. At this point there is no chance of exhuming more remains, including those from Sjeverin. The authorities in Republika Sprska and Serbia are too afraid of the consequences draining the lakes on the border between Bosnia and Serbia might have, what might be found there, let alone draining the Drina basin, the bottom and the mud which most likely hides the largest amount of remains.

Screen caps of the snuff film made by Milan Lukic and his men
Screen caps of the photographs made by Milan Lukic and his men in the lobby of the Vilna Vlas

Ivan Markov´s documentary; Otmica (Abduction) from 2002. (Photos of the torture shown from 43d minute)

Day after the kidnapping the family members of those kidnapped gathered in the village along with Serbian officials when a truck with eight men showed up in Sjevrin, on the hood of the car was traditional black flag with skull & bones of the Serb nationalist Nazi collaborationist Ravna Gora Chetnik movement. ( During the Second World War, Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović´s Chetniks viewed the Bosniaks, Croats and the Partisan resistence as their real enemy, the collaboration with Fascist Italy and the Nazis in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina meant that both Germans and the Italians looked the other way as the Chetniks carried out mass atrocites against the Bosniak population of Eastern Bosnia and Hercegovina. The movement, which was banned during the Communist years was resurrected  leading up to the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia.)

In the truck was among others Milan Lukić, according to witnesses; he and three other men started firing automatic rifles into the air close by the gathering of the family members of the kidnapped and the officials. According to one of the officials interviewed for Markov´s documentary the local population of Sjeverin complained that these type of incidents were almost a daily occurrence in Sjeverin and the surrounding area, sometimes several times a day, including firing burst from machine guns of the houses of the residents of Sjeverin. The kidnapping and the fact that Lukić had showed up at the gathering making it clear that he was able to do to the citizens of Sjeverin what he wanted with impunity meant that the Bosniaks of Sjeverin decided to abandon their homes and head away from the border towards Novi Pazar and Priboj, the largest towns in Sandžak. Afraid of taking the Sjeverin-Priboj road which meant that they would risk coming across Lukić and his men, the Bosniaks of Sjeverin took the longer route to Priboj going thru Serbia, many walked on foot for over 8 hours on the 20km trek to Priboj.

Admir Džihić, the then 13-year old boy who´s uncle Esad had been taken away by Lukić and his men, and the only one from Sjeverin that could identify the kidnappers, given that the Serbs on the bus were at that time at any rate, reluctant about identifying the kidnappers moved to Priboj where he and his mother heard that someone was asking questions about him and his family. According to Džihić, he started to see men in uniform at the lobby of the hotel where he was staying. According to Admir, his mother had been told by someone at the Priboj municipality building that people were looking for him. Fearful that the kidnappers from Sjeverin were looking for him, his family relocated first to Novi Pazar, with the aid of an NGO, and later to Turkey. 10 years later, Admir and the Džihić family moved to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. At the time of the filming of the documentary Admir and his family had not been back to Sjeverin. According to the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center, from October 1992 to the 20th of January 1993, 50 houses in Sjevrin were looted and several burnt down.

Four days after the kidnapping, on October 26, members of Serbian Ministry of Interior (MUP) pulled over a car in Sjeverin, in the car were two men, Milan Lukić and Dragutin Dragićević from Višegrad. During the identification process, Lukić pulled out fake ID-card issued to him by the local Višegrad Police Station. During the search of the car large quantities of weapons and ammunition were found and the two men were taken to jail in nearby Uziće, for possession of unsilenced firearms and falsified identification papers, a crime punishable with up to 10 years. However, after a week in jail Lukić and his partner were released by order of the court in Uziće. According to the documentary this was most likely due to the intervention of the late Radmilo Bogdanović, then head of the Serbian MUP (Ministry of the Interior) and as Markov notes the éminence grise of the Serbian Security structures. A powerful, behind the scenes decision-maker and close Milošević ally. Bogdanović just happened to be in Priboj and Uziće on the 1th of November. Three days later, on the 4th, Lukić and Dragićević were relesed from Uziće jail.

Due to Bogdanović´s intervention both Lukić and Dragićević were released from the Uziće jail with the explanation given that they did in fact not use falsified ID-cards, that they were citizens of a another country and that they were “on assignment”. The justification given for Lukić´s and Dragićević´s release from Uziće jail goes along with what has what has subsequently been established at the ICTY,  that far from simply being “out of control Bosnian Serb paramilitaries” as Belgrade propaganda and officals liked to portray their henchmen in Bosnia and Herzgovina people like Lukić and Dragićević were an integral part of Belgrade´s  “Greater Serbian” military-political project in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It wasn´t until July 2005 that the men suspected of masterminding the kidnapping and execution of the civilians from Sjeverin were found guilty of the crime in a Belgrade court. Twelve years after the war crime had taken place and three years after the fall of Slobodan Milošević. Milan Lukić and Oliver Krsmanović were sentenced to 20 years (in absentia) along with Dragutin Dragićević who also received 20 years (also in absentia) while Đorđe Šević recived 15 years. That same year, in August 2005 Milan Lukić was arrested in Argentina on an Interpol warrant and brought before the tribunal at The Hague. In 2009 he was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against the civilian population of Višegrad. He was not tried for the kidnapping and execution of 16 Bosniaks from Sjeverin.

On the 23d anniversary of the war crime, last year Omer Hodžić, the youngest son of Medredin Hodžić, the only one of the victims whose remains have been found told Serbian Danas that he expects Serbia to settle the matter of Sjeverin which he said was a legal precedent not only in Serbia but in Europe as well. He was joined by Sandra Orlović head of the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Center who said that it was important for the public to know that the state of Serbia was treating the family members of those kidnapped and murdered as second class citizens. Noting that the victims have not even received the status of “civilian victims of war” which would make the eligible for reparations from the state.

According to N1 Srbija ( a CNN affiliate in the Balkans)  Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor´s Office had agreed to talk to them about Sjeverin during the last year´s commemoration but then quickly changed their mind saying that they were “busy”, briefly commenting on the case by saying that “jusitice had been served” in the case of Sjeverin. However the families of the victims as well as members of various NGO`s don´t agree with this, saying that there has never been an investigation about the apparent role the Serbian state in the crime.

In October, last year Sandra Orlović also gave an interview for Sandžak Media pointing out that a legal team from the Humanitarian Law Center had sued the state of Serbia for the deaths of the 16 Bosniaks from Sjeverin. According to Orlović it´s clear that Serbia had throughout the entire war in Bosnia and Herzegovina openly and regularly facilitated the Bosnian Serbs both financially and materially and that this was no longer in dispute given the massive amount of evidence presented at the ICTY. She also pointed out that Serbia had a responsibility to protect those people as citizens of Serbia given that it was obvious that units of Bosnian Serb army and paramilitary forces were active in the area where the abduction took place. Orlović reminded the viewers that a day before the abduction, a 20 year-old, Sabahudin Ćatović  was taken away by Serb paramilitaries in Sjeverin never to be seen again. A day later his brother was taken by Milan Lukić and his men along with 15 other Bosniaks. There is also according to Orlović today in Serbia and in the region still an unwillingness to acknowledge that these people were simply killed because of who they were. That the state armed men like Milan Lukić who killed people simply based on what their names were, or their religion.

Bosnia´s Chetnik Problem

Attack on N1 journalists last month in Dobrun

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.

From last year´s gathering, Chetniks dressed in black paramilitary fatigues in Visegrad
From last year´s gathering, Chetniks dressed in black paramilitary fatigues in Visegrad

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.

Milorad Dodik is used to manipulating  bone-headed Serb nationalists. Given the lengths he´s gone to in order to protect himself; his actions have crippled Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last 10 years, (with  considerable help from Bosniak and Croat nationalist politicians) it´s should not be inconceivable that he eventually goes too far.

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”.

Memorial to the dead in Dobrun
Memorial to the dead in Dobrun

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.

A little bit about Republika Srpska MUP, Milorad Dodik & Kremlin “alternative media”

Footage from the attack.

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.

Dodik in Sputnik Serbia
Dodik in Sputnik Serbia

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.

P.S.

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 😉

Poplašen, Vučić and the Removal of the Brain

 

Muhamed Fazlagic
Muhamed Fazlagic

Today´s news from the political scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina look sad indeed. At first glance everything is neatly packaged along with media headlines about how Bosnia and Herzegovina is moving towards the European Union, in Srebrenica a giant donor confence is being held where the main star is Aleksandar Vučić, in the new coalition everything is working perfectly and so on…

Everything is prepared in a way that makes it seem that we don´t have anything to worry about, all we have to do is lean back and things will work itself out, we´re on the road to a better tomorrow.

Few days ago I watched a conversation between Senad Hadžifejzović and his guest from Serbia; Kokan Mladenović. When Hadžifejzović asked his guest if he had any intention of participating in the democratic makeover of Serbia, in which apparently Vučić had and was taking part in, his guest replied that he had no such intention, he couldn´t take that amount of hypocrisy.

Sober people in Belgrade read Vučić, a formerly open, and now dressed in a “European suite” Chetnik as a hypocrite and a dictator. Vučić seems to be more popular with the ruling coalition in Bosnia and Herzegovina then with his own people. The positive thing is that as it stands now, the budget of Srebrenica will be flushed with a certain amount of cash, however the negative part is that nobody is able to see what´s going on, even if it´s all been clearly and openly said, you just need to read more carefully.

Serbia owes Bosnia and Herzegovina around 5 billion BAM (2.5 billion euros) for power from power-plants on the Drina river, which it has produced and sold, even if Drina is both Bosnian and Serbian. That means my sober fellow countrymen that Vučić ows us 5 billion BAM. However, that´s not the end of the story, he owes Srebrenica alone 35 million euros for land flooded by one of those power-plants, naimly Bajina Bašta.

After all that, the premier of Serbia is coming to Srebrenica, a town massacred by the army  which he fought in, and promise 10 million BAM! Vučić is “giving” us, according to my calculation, 0,198 % of the money he owes us, and we´re happy about that, while celebrating his move. We´re calling it a “historic move “and a turnaround. What naiveté on one side, and hypocrisy and creativity on the other. But, you can´t have one without the other. Vučić wouldn´t be able to score easy points if it wasn´t for the fact that there were naïve or ill-willed people on the other end to support and reaffirm that.

I´m of course not thinking about the citizens of Srebrenica, I´m thinking about spineless people that are in power.

One part of that 10 million BAM, our money, more precisely 6 million BAM will go straight to the municipality´s account, while the other part will be invested. Do Bosniaks see that Serbia will that way completely dominate Srebrenica, under the guise of help and support? Do Bosniaks think that Serbia is that naïve, and that Dodik and Vučić have for no reason all of a sudden changed their tune and are talking about coexistence?

Today everybody is silent, today it´s dead calm, because we´ve be sedated, now they can do to us as they wish, we´re waiting for them to remove our vital organs, including the brain.  While that is taking place, another moral defeat is taking place in the Bosnian parliament.

Nikola Poplašen, Vojislav Šešelj´s faithful Chetnik who was removed from office by the then High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Carlos Westendorpf on march 6th 1999 is making his triumphant return to the political stage. And where? This native of Sombor (Vojvodina) has been named by the people´s assembly as a member of the Agency for Education in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

From now on Poplašen will have say in when it comes to education on state level in Bosnia and Herzegvoina, because Bosniaks, headed by SDA and a former GENERAL of the Bosnian Army, Sifet Podžić  and other “faithful” soldiers rewarded Poplašen and the so called “Serb political factor” for their denial of the Bosnian language in the smaller and ethnically cleansed Bosnian entity.

You can cancel out our language, we´ll put Nikola Poplašen on the very top of our educational system. What political savvy, one gets goose bumps from the ability  of our representatives. This also resembles the position of SBiH and ASDA in the fight for place in the coalition. The slogan goes something like this: You don´t have to give us anything, just make sure we have a few cadres moved to Sarajevo, and we´ll give you everything! The education, our honour and moral and the fate of both our own and other people´s children. All for a couple of chairs and self-interest.

To Sefer Halilović I say; congratulations, at least when it comes to this issue. Because you exited on time and your party survived. I don´t agree with many moves your party makes, but the honourable thing is to congratulate you on this move. One needs to congratulate Radončić as well who played this one like Karpov, placing all of his opponents and competitors in a stalemate. For SBB and their most important political partner and promotor, HDZ, (Croatian Democratic Union) that was the primary objective. I don´t agree with the politics of SBB, but they did achieve what they set out to achieve.

This article, taken from Kliker.info was written by Muhamed Fazlagic, (a Bosnian-American, and member of the Sociological Association, the North Central Sociological Association, and the Midwest Sociological Society )

Attacks on Returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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.

Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb.
Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb.

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.

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)

Mladic
Poster of Ratko Mladic in Vlasenica. Photo by Paulina Janusz.

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.

Veteran journalist and founder of the weekly Dani, Senad Pecanian said after the raid that:

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. 

Serbian fans holding a banner that says
Serbian fans holding a banner that says”Knife, Wire, Srebrenica” at the 2005 World Cup qualifying match

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.) )

Destroyed bilboards in Belgarde 2005.
Destroyed bilboards in Belgarde 2005. “Bice Repriza” (There will be a repeat) written in cyrillic.

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.

Dodik and I Understand Each Other Because We Both Speak Bosnian

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