Made in Portugal – Hasan Nuhanovic

Last week the body of Muhamed Nuhanović was identified whose post-mortem remains had been exhumated from the mass grave site in Kamenica. The identification was confirmed by his brother Hasan who that same day wrote the letter being published by Dani.

Written by: Hasan Nuhanović (translation P. Lippman)

Image: Hasan Nuhanovic


Today I identified my brother by his tennis shoes.

In the fall they got in touch with me about my mother. They found her, or what was left of her, in a creek, in the village of Jarovlje, two kilometers from Vlasenica. My home town. The Serbs who live there threw garbage on her for fourteen years. She wasn’t alone. They killed another six in the same place. Burned. I hope they were burned after they died.

Last fall, also, I went to court to see Predrag “Czar” Bastah. A Serb in Vlasenica told me — I gave him a hundred marks — that Czar had poured gas on them and lit them on fire. When I saw him in the courtroom, they were trying him for slaughtering people in ’92, there was nothing for me to see. Just some stunted piece of trash. Probably he waited all his life for his chance to be “somebody” for five minutes. And he got his chance in ’92. After that there were no more Muslims around to slaughter until Srebrenica fell. He waited more than two more years and then my mother and a few others fell into his hands. His commander, who ordered the killings, now works here in Sarajevo. That’s what another Serb told me — I gave him three hundred marks.

I’m preparing to bury them this year next to my father. They identified my father four years ago, eleven years after his execution. They found a little more than half his bones, they say. His skull smashed from behind. The doctor couldn’t tell me whether that happened after he died. They found him in a secondary mass grave, Cancari. Kamenica near Zvornik. There are thirteen mass grave sites there. The Chetniks dug them up with bulldozers from the primary grave at Pilica, the Branjevo farm, a little before the time ofDayton, piled them on trucks and took them there, forty kilometers away, to dump them and bury them again.

There were around 1500 of them killed there. That’s what they say at the Tribunal. I read the statement of one of the murderers who says, “I couldn’t shoot anymore, my index finger was starting to get numb from so much killing. I was killing them for hours.” Someone, he says, had promised them five marks for each Muslim that they kill that day. And he says that they made the bus drivers get out and kill at least a few of the Muslims so that they wouldn’t talk about this to anyone later.

Oh yes, poor drivers. Poor Drazen Erdemovic, who says that he had to kill or he would be killed. They all had to do it, you see, and only Mladic is guilty because, they say, he ordered it all. And when they catch Mladic, some day, he’ll say, like a real Serb hero, “I am taking the responsibility for all Serbs and for the whole Serb nation. Only I am guilty, judge me and let everyone else go.” And then all of us, we and the Serbs and the rest of them, we’ll be satisfied and happy. We’ll rip off our clothes and jump into bed together. We will no longer need the foreigners for anything.

Last year they put up headstones for everyone, nice ones, white in color, all the same, lined up in rows. Two empty spaces by my father. He’s waiting three years for my mother and his son, Muhamed, for them to be laid next to him.

Then they told me about my mother. I was preparing to bury her by my father this July 11th, 2010.

And then the other day they called me on the phone — they said they had a DNA identification for my brother, but they weren’t a hundred percent sure. They said to come to Tuzla, and I went today.


In the spring of ’95, I bought my brother new tennis shoes, Adidas, from some foreigner. He brought them from Belgrade on his way back to Srebrenica from vacation. My brother hadn’t been wearing them more than a month or two, when that all happened. And I bought him Levi 501s, he was wearing those. I know exactly what T-shirt he was wearing and what overshirt.

And today the doctor showed me a photograph — the clothes. He said, there isn’t much, very little, but there are tennis shoes. When he put the picture on the table in front of me, I looked at the sneakers, my brother’s Adidas, as if he had just taken them off the other day. They weren’t even untied.

The doctor brings in a bag and shakes out everything that they found on his remains into a box in front of me. And after waiting for fifteen years I take my brother’s sneakers in my hands. And besides that a belt, with a big metal buckle, and what’s left of his Levis. And his socks, both of them.

I looked for that well-known slogan on the Levis, that would also confirm my brother’s identity. I took the remains of my brother’s jeans into my hands, after fifteen years. Metal buttons. Part of the inside of the pockets. Everything that was made of cotton had fallen apart. Only the synthetic material was left.

Some other tag hangs untouched, just a little dirty, stuck in those threads, in the strands, the fragments.

I read it, looking for the Levis trade mark. It says, “Made in Portugal.”

All day I see that “Made in Portugal” before my eyes. And for my whole life, I think, I will see that. I’m going to hate everything that was “Made in Portugal,” just like I hated Heineken beer that the Dutch UN soldiers had guzzled in Potocari, on the base, less than an hour after they drove all the Muslims off it – handing them over, right into the Serbs’ hands. Or maybe I will love everything that has “Made in Portugal” written on it, everything that will remind me, until the end of my life, of my murdered brother.


A Dutch soldier, then, a little younger, came up to me and offered me a beer and a Marlboro. I shook my head. He just shrugged and walked away.

And for fifteen years I, like all the rest, prayed to God that when we finally find out what happened, it will be that they didn’t suffer long, that they didn’t die in torment.

They have been dead for fifteen years. In that year some new children were born. And now those children are fifteen years old. This July 11th will be someone’s fifteenth birthday.

I will never do anything, in any way, that would endanger those children’s future. I would not even think of that. May God grant that this will never happen to anyone again.

But, there is no amnesty, my friend. For the guilty there is no amnesty.


The reporters ask me all the time, and again the other day: what is my message for future generations. I tell them about how after Dayton I drove through eastern Bosnia in a car, looking for the traces of the disappeared, the murdered. I knew that near Konjevic Polje, Nova Kasaba, Glogova, on any of the routes towards Srebrenica, there are mass graves, that the meadows are full of them. And when I drove that way when everything was blooming, when it was all green, I did not see that beauty. I only saw the mass graves that those meadows hid. Under the flowers our fathers and brothers were lying, our sons. Their bones.

I drove by the places where Serbs live — I look at them through the window and think, which of them is a murderer? Which of them is a murderer?

It was like that for years. For years. And then, one day, by the road on a meadow where I had heard that a mass grave was concealed, a little girl was playing. She was five or six. Just like my daughter. I knew those were Serb houses.

The little girl ran across the meadow. And everything mixed together in me — sorrow, and pain, and hate.

And then I think, that poor little girl, what is she guilty of? She doesn’t even know what lies under that meadow, under the flowers. I’m sorry for that girl who looked just like my daughter. They could be playing together on that meadow.

And I wish that that little girl and my daughter will never experience what we lived through. Never. They deserve a nicer future. That’s what I said to those journalists. Those last ones were from in Belgrade.

And so, Dr. Kesetovic confirms — the mortal remains of my brother will be prepared for the funeral on July 11th. It is just as if my brother had managed to check in at the last minute, in time to be buried together with my mother, beside my father who lies waiting for them in Potocari.

And so my father, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, my brother, murdered in Pilica and exhumed in Kamenica, and my mother, murdered in Vlasenica and exhumed from under the garbage the creek at Jarovlje, will finally rest beside each other in Potocari.

8 Responses to “Made in Portugal – Hasan Nuhanovic”

  1. Abdulmajid Says:

    As long as serbia continues to meddle in Bosnian affairs, as long as the genocidal Serbofascist crusaders are allowed not only to go free but to remain in power, as long as Karadzic’s genocidal abomination called “republika srpska” exist, and as long as there are some who say it is “legal”, or defend teh Serb genocidal anti-Bosniak crusade as “just and holy war” or try to peddle it as “Fight against ‘jihadists’ or ‘international terrorism” or some such there can never be peace. As long as the Serbs maintain their right to Bosnian territory conquered by military means, or better through massive violence and terror against its inhabitants, those whose loved ones were murdered, who were robbed of their homes, their belongings and of their dignity and forced to disperse to the ends of the Earth have the right and it is logical that they will want to take back said territory by military means also. Pity for the chetnik children of today or of tomorrow who will have to pay for the crimes of tehir forebears. But Bosnia is not Serbia and a few generations hence the Bosbniaks can’t just let “bygones be bygones” . “Repluka srpska” must be dissolved, because it is a symbol that crime and genocide pays andtherefore its very existence can’t be tolerated; besidese that the individuals who created it are already beyond good and evil, they do not deserbe to walk this Earth, their very names should be made to cease to exist, and if this can be achieved only by more bloodshed then so be it. The chetnuik childrens’ minds are poisoned already from what their parents and tehir school teach them, when they grow up they will become Muslim -haters, just like the grandsons of Draza Mihajlovic’s Chetniks became killers of Bosniaks too – and murdered a lot of Bosniaks in the bargain who as youngsters had escaped the genocidal crusade of 1941-45.
    I have been in Hiroshima. I have got a glimpse of what can happen to those who sow the wind and reap the storm. And yet, when I read some serbofascist statements which insults and spits the Bosniaks in the face, or onto their graves I wish to see Hiroshima repeated in Belgrade, Nis, Kragujevac, and another 100 places in Serbia! Of course I know this should not and must not come to pass! But that is how I feel about it sometimes, so sorry! One day the unity of Bosnia-Herzegovina must be re-established and there can only be unconditional surrender of the enemy. The identity of the war criminals is well-known, and Bosnia is a very small country. The ICTY and all other institutions supposed to dispense justice have shown an incredible and insulting leniency towards the war criminals. I believe in justice. But I do not trust the judiciary, who always sell out to the particular interests of the mighty. The Bosniaks must do with those Serbofascists what the Israeli did with several Nazi war criminals – targeted assassination, but the blood of those swine must not soil the Bosnian earth so copiously irrigated with the blood of Bosniaks, and their bones must never rest in the same earth as the Bosniak martyrs (who were martyrized for being Bosniaks and for being on their own soil!).
    so sorry but sometimes I get the notion that Serbs are one particular evil and vengeful lot. That therefor eeven their children should not be spared; after all the grandchildren of teh chetniks of WWII grew up to become as evil or even worse chetniks themselves! What can then be expected of future generations of Serbs? How then to achieve reconciliation and peace? if they really wanted it, all right! But can they be trusted? I don’t think so. At least up to now they don’t seem to have shown so. That is the curse of teh evil deed, that it must beget more evil in return. Until people finally learn that it is better to live in peace and to learn to respect the others. Between the Germans and teh nations they fought in two world wars it has become possible. Will we see it in Bosnia? The Serbs are now so filled with fear and bad conscience that they will try everything to maintain the staus quo or to see the Bosniaks on their knees, and they exploit the current trend of Islamophobia to the max. They all forget that they can’t keep the Bosniaks subdued forever. Fear leads only to more hate. Were I in the Bosniak leaders’ place I would make it my primary objective to which everything else is subordinated that “NEVER AGAIN” genocide is attempted against the Bosniaks and that if their enemies are so foolish to attack them they will be not merely routed, but crushed. But if the Bosniaks are defeated they know after Srebrenica that they can expect no mercy from their enemy. In 1945 it was not the intention of the Americans to waste ALL Japanese, all racists anti-Japanese slurs, all hate, the firebombings and two atom bombs notwithstanding. But in the case of the Serbs it is different. It is differenrt because even now Serbia will not distance itself from genocide. It haws avoided all mention of it in its declaration on srebrenica. So they must fight to the last man, woman and child.

  2. Many times Hasan Nuhanovic has told how his parents and his brother fled from Srebrenica to what they assumed was the safety of the UNPROFOR compound at Potocari. He has told the story of how the Dutch ordered them to leave the base. He has told how they were forced to walk out of the gate into the hands of Ratko Mladic’s troops.

    Those three civilian refugees were directly entrusted by a Dutch senior officer to the care of the Bosnian Serb Army. There was no intervening interval.

    The bodies of those three individuals have now been found in concealed mass graves, their bodies mingled with the remains of many other victims.

    There is no gap in the story. Ibro, Nasiha and Muhamed Nuhanovic were civilian refugees who were handed over by the representatives of the international community responsible for their protection to an organisation with a history of mass murder.

    Now the evidence of what happened to them is all in place. It’s time for justice.

  3. Abdulmajid, as you know I disagree with you parituclarly over the issue of giving up on the notion of the rule of law. That’s the route to survival of the fittest, and losing one round of genocidal aggression doesn’t mean you’re going to win the next. But you’ve put your finger on the key issue. ““Repluka srpska” must be dissolved, because it is a symbol that crime and genocide pays.”

    The international community must never be allowed to forget that it chose to reward Republika Srpska for genocide in Bosnia with the power to protect war criminals and condemn their victims to pvoerty and injustice.

    Thanks to the Mothers of Srebrenica the United Nations’s claim to absolute immunity from responsibility will not go unchalleged. The European Union must not go unchallenged in its attempts to get back to business as usual with Serbia while the Serbian regime continues to protect the war criminals – the butchers of Visegrad along with Mladic and Milosevic’s messenger boy Hadzic.

  4. When the tragedy of Srebrenica happened I was 15 years old and I still remember what a French journalist said: “look at these people they‘re probably going to be killed soon ” the journalist knew, I in Tunisia knew and the whole world knew and yet we did nothing at all. This should never happen again to anyone in this world. To Hassan Nuhanovic think god that your family can rest in peace in a decent place. And all these years when ever I watch you on TV on every 11th July telling the horror with such dignity I say to myself what a well raised son. God gives you saber and allah rahmet for all the victims

  5. I am new here, so I am learning a lot about what happened. I heard Hasan’s story, and I felt compelled to follow up, to see if he had anymore answers. I cannot tell you how this story, and many others like it, breaks my heart. I sincerely hope that justice is served. This never should have happened. Since I am new, people ask me all the time what I think about the war. I was living in France when it started, and I was proud when President Clinton finally intervened. I am just sorry it took so long for us to know. The American media covers some things, but mostly, it is entertainment news, not real news. Stories like this one are why I am here, trying to educate young people, especially the ones who were living in basements in Sarajevo in their childhoods and the ones who have only one or no parents. I hope I can do some good so that stories like this one never have to be told again. I want justice, too. I can’t believe how complicit the Dutch were. Seriously, in the States, we had no idea. It wasn’t that we didn’t care, it was that we didn’t know. If we had known, we would have done something. The proof of this that I have to offer are the American forensic scientists who work every single day to identify remains from the mass graves. Hasan and the Bosian people will be remembered in my prayers from now until the end of my life.

  6. Maarten Says:

    Now in 2011, I saw some personal stories from Dutchbat-soldiers on the Dutch television. Dutchbat-soldiers telling they really couldn’t do anything about it, because there was no air support and the Serbs had to many soldiers. I’m so ashamed of my country. These dutchbat-soldiers were not enlisted men, they were professional soldiers. They are alive, while the people they should protect were slaugtered. They should have tried harder to prevent this.
    I couldn’d stand the sight of Karremans accepting a gift of Mladic. We should have hanged Karremans in Holland for this.

  7. Bosnienbloggen Says:

    Reblogged this on Bosnienbloggen.

  8. Inna lillah wa inna elahey rajaoon ! May Allah rest their souls in pease. Brother Hassan we have no words to share your sorrow.I pray humans would never hate each other to such great extent that they would destroy sanity.

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