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Bosnia

War Lives On In Sarajevo, 20 Years Later

Irina Cisic was 1 year old when she was shot and killed by a sniper in October 1994.
Irina Cisic was 1 year old when she was shot and killed by a sniper in October 1994.

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How I Failed To Stop The War In Bosnia

Twenty years ago, on the eve of the Bosnian war, Nenad Pejic was the program director of Sarajevo TV. War seemed inevitable, but he was prepared to make one last attempt to save the peace.
By Daisy Sindelar and Marija Arnautovic
SARAJEVO -- Forty-three-year-old Stana Cisic is so radiantly cheerful that for a minute it is impossible to believe that she's the mother of a baby killed by a sniper's bullet.

Stana's husband, Samir, says it's always been that way. His wife, the pillar of the family, rarely breaks down. Instead, he's the one who cries almost silently as she recounts how their daughter Irina was killed just days after her first birthday in October 1993.

"Four days after her birthday, we went out for a walk. It was a beautiful day, and we used to go out when there was no shooting. But a sniper bullet found her that day," Stana says.

"We rushed to the hospital and she had emergency surgery. There were a lot of doctors there fighting for her life. But her body was just too small and fragile. She died in Samir's arms."

Irina was one of hundreds of children killed during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, when Bosnian Serb forces, alarmed by Muslim-majority Bosnia-Herzegovina's decision to break from federal Yugoslavia, surrounded the city, cutting off supplies of food and electricity and sending mortar fire and sniper bullets raining down on its residents.

The siege of Sarajevo is the longest in modern European history, a full year longer than the World War II blockade of Leningrad -- and all the more shocking for the international community's failure to intervene despite heavy media coverage and the presence of UN troops.

Stana and Samir Cisic with their daughter, Irina, in SarajevoStana and Samir Cisic with their daughter, Irina, in Sarajevo
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Stana and Samir Cisic with their daughter, Irina, in Sarajevo
Stana and Samir Cisic with their daughter, Irina, in Sarajevo
Now, as the city prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege, theater director Haris Pasovic, who is organizing the April 6 commemorations, says the event is an opportunity for Sarajevans to collectively grieve over their lost friends and relatives even as the city asserts its multicultural heritage.

Pasovic's anniversary events include a poetry reading and the placement of 11,541 red chairs next to the city's eternal flame memorial. The chairs, he says, are meant to symbolize the official number of Sarajevans lost during the siege -- Bosniaks, Serbs, Croats, and others.

"We're missing an entire city within the city," Pasovic says. "If these people had not been killed, it would be a very big critical mass of people who would contribute to the creative life of this city, whether they would be engineers or architects or workers or waiters or cooks or bakers. This was pure murder. They were killed because they loved this city, and they believed in this city and the values that this city stands for."

VIDEO: Haris Pasovic's Everyday Reminder Of War
Haris Pasovic's Reminder Of Wari
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April 05, 2012
As Sarajevo prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege of the city by Bosnian Serb forces, theater director Haris Pasovic, who is organizing the April 6 commemorations, talks about how the simple act of making a salad automatically takes him back to wartime in the city.

Cafe culture continues to flourish in Sarajevo, where the affection for coffee, cigarettes, and intense conversation remains, seemingly undiminished.

But the scars of the war are still evident in Sarajevo, where many buildings remain pockmarked by bullets and mortar fire even as gleaming new skyscrapers, shopping malls, and Saudi-built mosques crop up along the city's mountain-ringed skyline. The city's beloved National Library, which was destroyed by fire during the war, remains largely unrepaired.

This, residents grumble, is the result of an administrative paralysis that is a legacy of the 1995 Dayton peace accords that brought the war to a close. Bosnia's system of government, devised on the principle of equal ethnic and regional representation, is famously inefficient.

'We Have No Dialogue'

The country recently went 16 months without a government amid disputes between ethnic parties, and the presidency only this week called a conference to discuss the consequences of Croatia's entry into the European Union next year -- a conversation that some residents suggest should have been started five years ago.  

"We have no dialogue in our country," says Boro Kontic. "We are still living in these trenches.""We have no dialogue in our country," says Boro Kontic. "We are still living in these trenches."
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"We have no dialogue in our country," says Boro Kontic. "We are still living in these trenches."
"We have no dialogue in our country," says Boro Kontic. "We are still living in these trenches."
Boro Kontic, who spent the war as a broadcaster with Radio Sarajevo and who now runs the city's Mediacentar think tank, says Bosnia remains a country of "revolution, not evolution."

"We have no dialogue in our country. We are still living in these trenches, like there's a war," Kontic says. "It would be good just to talk about the war -- the consequences of the war, war crimes, but not with big words. Just a discussion. Or what are the little things that unite us? Football? Culture? Why not make a new life based on that, those small group of questions on which we agree?"

'A River Of Blood'

The same sentiment can be heard from many of those who suffered most during the war.

Seventy-two-year-old Esad Pozder is one of the last remaining survivors of the August 1995 bombing of the city's central Merkale market.

Five mortar shells rained down on the market, which had already endured a devastating attack the year before. The second assault left 37 people dead, including Pozder's older sister and a close friend who had come to purchase one of Pozder's cabbages.

"There was literally a river of blood," he says now.
"There was literally a river of blood," says Esad Pozder, 72, one of the last remaining survivors of the August 1995 bombing of Sarajevo’s central Merkale market by Serbian forces.
"There was literally a river of blood," says Esad Pozder, 72, one of the last remaining survivors of the August 1995 bombing of Sarajevo’s central Merkale market by Serbian forces.
Today, the market is once again bustling, with traders, abundant piles of fresh produce, and vases of colorful flowers. A red wall at the back of the market marks the names of those killed in the attacks, and a glass box preserves a deep crack in the floor left by a grenade.

Many survivors say they have a difficult time returning to Merkale, the site of such vicious violence perpetrated by Serb fighters against the mainly Muslim Sarajevans. But Pozder, who is retired, walks comfortably to his former stand, where his cabbages have been replaced by pears.

"I've made peace with all that," he says, and suggests his country should do the same.

"You simply can't have a situation of having Republika Srpska there and us here. It has to be shared. We must have one Bosnia-Herzegovina, with all three nations -- Muslim, Serb, Croat," Pozder says. "We need to have the kind of friendship we used to have once upon a time. Things can't be good unless the people are reunited in an appropriate way."

Stana Cisic, who has gone on to raise two more daughters, now 12 and 16, agrees. She herself is the product of a Catholic-Orthodox marriage, and her husband Samir is Muslim.

"We celebrate all the holidays in our house – Catholic Easter, Orthodox Easter, Ramadan, Christmas," she says, laughing. "For us, it's normal."
When their daughters ask about who killed their sister, Stana and Samir Cisic say they are careful to talk about the war without devolving into discussions of ethnic hatred or national divisions.
When their daughters ask about who killed their sister, Stana and Samir Cisic say they are careful to talk about the war without devolving into discussions of ethnic hatred or national divisions.
Stana and Samir still keep the bullet that killed their first child, Irina. When their daughters ask about who killed their sister, Stana says they are careful to talk about the war without devolving into discussions of ethnic hatred or national divisions.

Ironically, Stana will spend the April 6 anniversary not in Sarajevo, but in Belgrade, where she has been invited to give a speech about Irina. She says she's nervous about the trip but never reluctant to talk about the baby she lost.

"It's not difficult for me," she says. "I love to talk about my daughter. When I talk about her, I feel like she's still here."

Daisy Sindelar

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Bill ROmine
April 06, 2012 04:05
How can you say "mostly Muslim Sarajevans"? What happened to the 250,000 Christian Serbs that lived in Sarajevo? How can this news outlet publish such hate and racism against Christians and serbs? Do you think your lies and false accusations will last forever? You will not win - Jihad will not win in Bosnia? Why don't you mention the 30,000 mujahdeen fighters from saudi arabia, syria, iran and pakistan that came to cut the heads off the infidel serbs?
why don't you mention that? why don't you mention that Muslims wanted a Islamic republic but they lost and will always lose.
your publication is pathetic and you wont even print this comment because you have become fascist and have no clue what freedom of speech really means...

In Response

by: Ted
April 06, 2012 23:54
"You will not win" ---> Karadzic said Bosnian (Bosniaks) will not exist. He said to kill them all, yet Bosnian (Bosniaks) are still in existence. Very much the same way Hitler wanted to extinguish the existence of Jews across Europe (and the World?). How can you side with the inhuman beings?

Bill, Mike you are not even human to react this way.

"And every last Croat within B&H wants to separate and join Croatia." - Then they can go and live in Croatia. Nobody is keeping them in B&H.

"why don't you mention that Muslims wanted a Islamic republic but they lost and will always lose." - Really? Separating from Yugoslavia (like all other countries after Tito's death) was a plan for an Islamic country? And yet you can predict future also. If Serbs worshiped Yugoslavia why did they break it?

Bosnians never wanted a war. They didn't start it. No matter how much Serbia may negate the existence or war and their involvement in it, their deeds are known. Too much blood was spilled. RS is a fictional nation. Its existence was created on blood of B&H. Any sane person would not support such nation.

by: Mike Kukic from: LA
April 06, 2012 06:39
Muslims want things the way they used to be huh? Well too bad, you had your chance to stay in Yugoslavia but you tried to exterminate serbs who refused to be ruled by mujahideen. You chose to separate under the assumption that you would control all minorites by outvoting/outnumbering them. My people will never be ruled by Turks or their barbaric religion again. Republika Srpska will never be one with you, will never be under your control and any attempt to do so will be causing another war by the exact same wahabbi mujahideens who did it last time.
And every last Croat within B&H wants to separate and join Croatia. Those are facts, you've made your bed now lie in it.
In Response

by: Wendy from: Chicago
April 08, 2012 02:32
Beogradski pasaluk is what you will end up with.Enjoy it when you go back home to visit.

by: mmmm from: Sarajevo, BiH
April 06, 2012 15:18
You guys should not comment as you have no clue what happened, why it happened and you have been brainwashed by your serbian friends and family. The whole world knows what happened and who is the aggressor and who is the victim, only you choose to live a lie and that is your choice. What I have found is that the serbians outside of Serbia and Bosnia pretend to be the biggest serbs and Christians than the ones that live here. You should have stayed and fight the war you are talking about here and see for yourself. It's easy to be a hero behind a computer desk! Get a life!
In Response

by: Rob from: Europe
April 06, 2012 21:38
mmmm, their nationalism and hate sucks. Don't it? Can't get over themselves and it is sad. The war may have started no matter what. The Serbs had the power and weapons left by Tito and bad people took over and riled up the brainwashed to get what they wanted.

But walk the high road. Life moves on and we will find redemption. I hope the posters above will find their peace and not see others through hate. They will be stronger for it.

by: FACT
April 06, 2012 16:35
The arrogance and ignorance in both of your messages is simply sad. Not entirely sure what your sources of information is but whatever it is you should dispose of it due to the lack of accuracy and a great deal of propaganda that is associated with it.
For one, there were 158 000 Serbs present in Sarajevo in 91. Bill you ask what happened to them, well let me tell you. A large number joined forces with the Serbian army that was held responsible for the siege. They didnt go far, they were just on top of the mountain looking down and bombarding the rest of the city. Some fled the country in time since they knew what was coming, while thousands of them stayed in Sarajevo because that was where their home was only to be killed by the their own ancestors, the radical Serbs.
Both of you talk about Jihad, and Mujahideen fighters let me tell you this. If this was a fair war they wouldnt have come into the country in the first place. The bosnians had no amunition to start, how do you expect anyone to defend themselves? Oh yea thats right...you didnt expect. you, much like the rest of the serbs felt it was ok to come in and kill innocent women, children, elderly, and many more for the sole reason that they were proud Bosnians (I say bosnians because that consisted of serb and croat descendants as well). just to be clear here, 2 million + bosnian "muslims" do not associate themselves with radical mujahideens, so stop making the assumption that we do.
Mike yes the turks were barbaric, but what your people did in Bosnia was even worse. Raping daughters in front of their mothers, fathers, brothers. Tieing a rope to a mans gential and then dragging him on a motorcycle. Forcing one muslim man to bite of the gentials of another muslim man. Killing pregnant muslim women so they do not have a muslim child. forcing almost 9000 + in Srebrenica to dig their own grave and then tie their hands behind only to shoot them. do you want me to go on? Get your facts straight to ignorant descendant of a Radical Serb.
In Response

by: J from: Fl
April 06, 2012 21:18
thank you. The reason they write those comments is not because they don't know the truth, but because they are trying to seed propaganda, especially for the readers who do not know much about this war. They know that the West is at a war with Arabs, so they try to use the islam thing to make their lies more believable for something totally unrelated.
In Response

by: J from: fl
April 06, 2012 21:22
and I also don't understand why they always bring up the Turks as an excuse? What the Turks did to ALL of Yugoslavia is not the fault of bosnians a hundred yrs later. If it's Turks they are mad at, why not go attack their strong army in turkey as opposed to the children and women and other civilians in Bosnia. Not to mention that many bosnian Serbs are the product of the turks that occupied the area,since the Turks generally did not rape those who converted to Islam.
In Response

by: Amra
April 08, 2012 00:13
J, you are right about propaganda. Hate only feeds hate. Only love moves the World towards good. And these hateful people don't know about love.

I would like to know why this website doesn't have the "report this inappropriate comment" option. I am for freedom of speech but seeing some of these nonsense, hateful, and discriminatory "opinions" are really cutting into my human heart.
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
April 10, 2012 20:27
J, Amra, FACT:
Thanks. It's what I've been saying all along. Of course they know the truth but they want to continue to insult and taunt the victims of teh war- the Bosniaks. Essentially they say "We can sweep the floor with you". And I always only get only slander, insult and ridicule from Greater Serb chauvinist christofascist anti-Muslim supremacists and other such people of disputable morals and negligible intelligence. And medieval ideas. Who believe that if a Muslim kills a Serb, and be it in self-defense, it is a war crime, while if it's the other way round it is a perfectly justifiable act of self-defense. Justified because "the Turks were barbaric to us Serbs and opressed us for 500 years." Be as that may it is no justification for committing genocide against the Bosniaks. Nor to say "A million Serbs was killed at Jasenovac, so Srebrenica does not count. "or "Yeah, we have apologized for Srebrenica but the balije who lived there are never getting it back." As if it was particularly fair clobbering me over what my great-great-grandfather allegedly did 100 years before I was even around. But then, the alleged or true atrocities of Turks, Austrohungarians, Nazis, Ustase and what not, (and associating the Bosniaks with "mujahideen", "jihadists" and "al Qaida") are just misused to concoct a lame self-serving justification by and for these people themselves, often with inflated half-truths or outright lies like "Naser Oric killed 3000 Serbs around Srebrenica, so you're no better than you say we are" or "they want to establish an Islamic republic in Bosnia", so they would not feel so bad about committing rape, robbery, vandalism and murder in order to take over the Bosniaks' property, houses, land, money, jobs and belongings which Milosevic and his cronies had promised their willing executioners as booty. To justify all that before themselves and before their families, or just because they hate Muslims. I have heard many a Serb woman say that if her own son did such things she would disown him. I can't say whether she meant it or not. Sure, not all Serbs or their backers are Muslim-hating murderous thugs and barbarians, or islamophobic bigots with medieval, 19th century and fascist (in any case, inhuman and undemocratic) ideas of religious and racial purity, but the ones you get to hear here more often than not are. And even one is one too many. However, let us see next time around if they are so brave to back their words with deeds (if they have the b***s to try which I doubt). anybody can soldier on the computer keyboard. Let them come to Bosnia and they will get a very hot welcome. May they find all they want for us balije.Oh, let them hate us balije and Mooslims all they want, its their opinion, I don't care, (even though I think that Islamophobia, like all other kinds of fascism, is not an opinion but a crime) but whoever raises a hand against us Mooslims just out of hate must be stopped.
In Response

by: Alexis von Wallenstein from: Ontario, CANADA
April 08, 2012 23:23
It is a little known fact but hundred of Cossacks went from Russia, with the blessing and the support of Moscow to fight with the Serbs in the siege of Sarajevo. Many of them were snipers shooting civilians like fish in a barrel from the hills around Sarajevo. For the record, it is the moral cowardice of US President Bill Clinton that allowed the slaughter of so many innocent people in one of Europe's most civilized cities, as it was at that time. Who, at the time of the beautiful Sarajevo winter Olympics would have dreamed that so much primitive savagery would, in a few years, have been unleashed by Serbs, drunk with ancient hatred, on a shining jewel of European civilization? And by what logic did Russia support them in this disgraceful enterprise that will stain their name for hundreds of years?

by: Mladen Pejanovic from: South Africa
April 17, 2012 12:21
Think almost all of us who grew up in Sarajevo have lost someone in that war. I honestly don't wish for anyone to experience that loss regardless of what ethicity they belong to. We're all people and generaly have the same desires to live happy lives. The war that broke out was fully motivated by the politician leaders of that time, and they should be the ones that pay for it dearly, not the general people. Lastly as a Serb, I regret that Sarajevo will probably never be the same City it once was since the generation that experienced all the bloodshed can't let go of the hurt that it had to bear undeservingly.

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