In Memoriam: Himzo Demir
Himzo Demir was the head-teacher of Višegrad High School in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and had formerly been a chemistry teacher.He was 54 years old, and married with two sons. At the beginning of the war, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) took control of Višegrad, and began the large-scale persecution of the town’s Bosniac [Bosnian Muslim] population. Himzo Demir was summarily sacked from his job, as were many other Bosniacs who held influential positions in the local community. Mr Demir had also served as the headof the local government as a member of the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
At approximately 4pm on 28 May 1992 Himzo Demir was at home with his wife Sadija and one of his sons when five cars surrounded the house, and six or seven people wearing camouflage uniforms came to the door. Mrs Demir believes that these men were members of the “White Eagles”, a paramilitary group operating in eastern Bosnia, but mainly originating from Serbia. They said that they wanted to take Himzo Demir and his son for questioning. The couple’s eldest son was in Sarajevo at the time, but their younger 15-year-old son was with them. Mrs Demir begged the men not to take her son away, and they did not take him.
One member of the group – who was known to the family as one of Mr Demir’s former pupils – patted Himzo Demir on the shoulder, saying “You were the best school principal”. Others in the group spoke with accents which suggested to Mrs Demir that they came from what is now the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). These men also searched the house for valuables and stole some jewellery that they found. Himzo Demir was driven away in a red “Lada” car and has not been seen since.
Five days after he was taken away, the deputy head of the school where Himzo Demir used to work asked Mrs Demir to provide him with the school’s official stamp. Mrs Demir believes that this stamp was needed to stamp certificates for students leaving at the end of that school year. Although Himzo Demir had been sacked, he was officially still the head of the school and would have been required to sign the certificates. She believes that her husband was still alive at this time, but believes that he was killed a few days later.
Mrs Demir asked the local police to help her find her husband, but received no information about the whereabouts of her husband. On 31 May she, and her son, fled from Višegrad and – after a period in hiding – eventually made their way to Goražde which was then controlled by the Bosnian Government, and where they still live.
Editor’s Note:Text taken from Amnesty International; Bosnia-Herzegovina: The “disappeared”: Himzo Demir – head-teacher: “disappeared from Visegrad