Archive for Mehmed pasa Sokolovic

Bosnia twenty years on: victims return to Višegrad to bury their dead

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2012 by visegrad92
Richard Newell , 20 June 2012

Saturday morning, May 26, 2012, a convoy of ‘Centrotrans’ buses leaves Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Hercegovina, heading eastwards into Republika Srpska to Višegrad, a town straddling the Drina, a beautiful river whose green waters cleave northward through the deep, wooded valleys of eastern Bosnia. The buses are headed to the 20th anniversary commemoration of the town’s ethnic cleansing.
 
During 1992, Bosnian Serb nationalists, locals who were aided by Serbia proper in the form of the Yugoslav National Army, ‘cleansed’ the town and the surrounding hamlets of their Muslim neighbours. Their remains can now (not) be found at the bottom of the green Drina or in mass graves around the locale.

The people filling the buses this grey morning are relatives, refugees and victims, all going back to commemorate or to bury family and friends.

 What took place in Višegrad has yet to be officially labelled as genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) trials have failed to designate the crimes with that status, yet it is difficult to see it any other way. 

Some 3,000 Bosnian Muslims were identified, seized and then slaughtered by a mixture of local police and the Army of Republika Srpska. On June 14th, 1992 in a house on Pionirska Street, Višegrad, fifty-nine Bosniak women and children, along with the elderly, were burnt alive. Milan and Sredoje Lukic, cousins and leaders of the local Serb nationalist militia, then repeated the crime thirteen days later in Bikavac where sixty Bosniak civilians were locked into a house and then burned alive.

Up in Vilina Vlas, a spa close to the town, a rape camp was established; some reports claim that as many as 200 women were held there. It is now a spa once again. You can buy postcards of it in the tourist shop just off the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge. 

This bridge–the beautiful, famous bridge built in 1571 by the Ottoman empire, immortalised and seemingly immortal–is at the heart of a Nobel prize-winning book,The Bridge on the Drina, penned by long time Višegrad resident, Ivo Andric. The bridge was the centre-piece of Višegrad’s beauty, standing unmoved by time and tide with a deft, yet solid elegance as empires rose and fell around it.
 Rumour has it, though, that some among the town’s older generations no longer walk on it. Perhaps they remember when it was awash with blood as their Muslims neighbours were brought to be killed on it, their throats slit before they were pushed into the writhing river below.

This event is both a commemoration and a burial. Sixty six people are to be buried, their remains gathered from Lake Perucac, a man-made lake downriver towards Srebrenica. The remains of other victims are gathered from other sites. All DNA identified, they are to be laid to rest in the Muslim Straziste cemetery which stands just off Ulica Uzitskog Korpusa street, named after the Uzice Corps, the Serb-led corps of the Yugoslav National Army that took the town in 1992. Next to the cemetery hangs the ubiquitous flag of Republika Srpska.

Višegrad is now a Bosnian Serb town. The cemetery is the only land left to the people who have either lived or died there as Muslims. There are two token mosques, but neither is used.

The Centrotrans buses, having crossed the beautiful, waterlogged heights of Romanija, bring several thousand people back to a place they once considered home. 
It had rained during the night and the ground is damp; the freshly dug graves have water at the bottom. The prior week, a team of volunteers had come out and cleaned the cemetery, cutting the grass and branches and clearing the place for today.

 As the ceremony begins, a monument, an enlarged replica of Nisan, the headstone erected above Muslim graves, is unveiled, inscribed with text on all four sides. It stands under a newly erected flagpole from whence the Bosnian flag now hangs. The monument is unveiled by two girls who had come to bury their grandfather. They are being filmed by Al Jazeera Balkans as the Bosnian national anthem is heard throughout the town.

The ceremony is long. For non-Bosnians and non-Muslims, it is difficult to follow. Even more difficult is interpreting the mood of the people. Similar to many other such ceremonies across Bosnia, imams stand, chew gum and chat as prayers are called and people are buried. The weeping of widows, sisters and mothers is mixed with general conversation. People answer cell phones with a loud, jocular “Hej, gdje si? Sta ima?” In In previous years people would sit and watch, eating sandwiches, although this custom is now banned. The ceremony culminates with the burials of sixty-six Muslims in the now familiar timber coffins with a green cloth-covered frame, numbers and a name displayed on the front. 
Sixty-six people, twenty years later.

After this everyone descends through the silent town. Children leaving school stand and stare. They do not remember a Višegrad with a Muslim population; they do not remember a war. They know only what they are taught by their parents and in school. The rest watch impassively from windows and balconies. Everyone is hyper-sensitive to any signs of trouble or provocation. There are none. The younger adults of the town do not hide their smirks, however. We pass “Andricgrad,” a new mini- town being built by movie director Emir Kusturica and funded in part by Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Sprska, personally. It will be the set for a film production of Bridge on the Drina. One imagines that in the now homogeneously Serb town of Višegrad the director may well have to reinterpret Andric’s depiction of the town (and its bridge) to reflect the new Muslim-less history that is now commonplace in Republika Srpska.

The crowds gather on the bridge, filling it. The sides are lined with roses, and from the parapet of the bridge two long strips of red cloth dangle. Then, more speeches. The cafe adjoining the bridge makes a great place from which to view the proceedings; it is filled with both residents and people who have come for the ceremony. Some of the locals leave; others sit back and watch. Two lads in particular grin and raise their glasses to each other. The cafe owner turns the music up to drown out the speeches; the bouncy euro-techno beat of “Du hast den schonsten arsch der welt ” [“You have the most beautiful arse in the world”] drifts out across the river. On the bridge the speeches continue for another half an hour before finally the roses are cast into the water to the sound of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” seeping out from the cafe.

The Centrotrans buses are now lined up and waiting, and the bridge empties quickly. It is a two and a half hour trip back to Sarajevo.

 Turning back to look as the buses pull away, the bridge stands immortally, hopefully a silent, terrible witness, a monument unintended. And beneath it the green Drina continues to flow.
 I doubt Višegrad will ever be beautiful again.

 

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Dirty War of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 20, 2010 by visegrad92

Los Angeles Times

August 10, 1992 |

By CHARLES T. POWERS, TIMES STAFF WRITER

Column One

Dirty War of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

Muslim Slavs have been robbed, beaten, thrown out of their homes and imprisoned by Serbian militiamen. Their accounts suggest a clear pattern of persecution.

August 10, 1992|CHARLES T. POWERS, TIMES STAFF WRITER

ZAGREB, Croatia — While visiting his son in Visegrad in eastern Bosnia earlier this summer, Delic Suljo, a 65-year-old retired factory worker from Gorazde, learned what the twisted term “ethnic cleansing” has come to mean to some here.

Suljo’s story isn’t easy to hear. It provides a glimpse, however, into how some have carried out the terror, thuggery, theft and murder that have engulfed the former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and made an estimated 2.2 million citizens of the former federation refugees.

Both sides in the Yugoslav civil war–Croats and Serbs–have been accused of committing atrocities as they have tried to capture and control disputed territory, much of it–especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina–in areas where Muslims, Croats and Serbs long have lived together in harmony.

But world attention has been riveted in recent days by new allegations of Serbian brutality–ugly conduct that has been likened by some to Nazi-era horrors and chillingly linked by statements of some Serbian leaders about what they call “ethnic cleansing,” the removal of non-Serbs from areas claimed by Serbs.

This process began in Visegrad, said Suljo and Vanica Basija, 68, a Visegrad resident, when Serbian militiamen moved in a day after the former Yugoslav National Army stopped shelling the town. The soldiers drove through Visegrad with loudspeakers mounted on trucks, urging citizens, “Remain loyal!”–to what was not made clear–and “Do your work and you will not be harmed!”

The militiamen, Suljo said, then moved through the city, street by street, with lists of residents on which Muslim names were readily identifiable. When the Muslims–or, in some cases, Croats–were not identified or listed on the post office register, simple terror could be used to induce some Serbian residents of Visegrad to identify their Muslim neighbors.

Sometimes, according to Suljo and other refugees, the Serbian neighbors were willing accomplices. But in some cases, the Serbian neighbors–among whom they have lived all their lives–were horror-stricken and did what they could to help.

From the upper floor of his son’s house, Suljo said he watched from May 12 to June 15 as Serbian militiamen murdered scores of unarmed civilians on the bridges at either end of the town’s main street. They heaved the bodies into the river, he said.

On June 16, the Serbs, with their lists, came to Suljo’s street.

“They called everyone out from the houses,” he said. “They told us to wait until they brought the truck. But I had already seen where the truck went, and we got very scared. And 11 of us tried to get to the Red Cross. As we were going, two (Serbian guerrillas) came from behind us and stopped us. At that moment, we were 40 yards from the old bridge. . . . And then we heard a car stop, and someone in the car, another (soldier), yelled at them to leave us alone. They had an argument. One in the car said, ‘Let them go; they are too old.’

“Then the two of them marched us to a nearby schoolyard,” Suljo said, “and started to interrogate us about our sons and daughters. . . . When I said I was from Gorazde, one of them hit me with a clenched fist to the nose. Then my nose started to bleed. And then they kicked me with their boots and broke three of my ribs. . . .

“They ordered me and one other older man to go in front of them,” he recalled. “And I thought for sure they were going to kill us on the bridge. We were walking in front of the hotel where most of the (militiamen) were sleeping. There was a body there, in the street, of a man whose head was almost destroyed. . . . (A soldier) ordered us to drag him to the bridge. We dragged the body, by the legs, to the bridge, and they ordered us to throw him over.

“When we came on the bridge,” he said, “we saw a brain, a human brain. . . . The (soldier) made the other man pick it up and throw it in the river. . . . There were two more bodies on the bridge, men whose throats had been cut. He ordered us to throw these two bodies into the river.

“As I was in poor condition, with my ribs broken, and the other man very old, it was very hard to do, and he kicked us a few times,” he said. “So we managed to throw these two bodies, as well. When we finished, we were covered in blood, all my clothes soaked in blood, head to foot.”

In an evident act of leniency for their labor, the militiamen spared Suljo and his companion that day. The next morning, he managed to flee to the town’s Red Cross office, where local people–Serbs, Suljo hastened to point out–helped to get him out of town, to relative safety. “You ask why they are doing this,” Suljo said of his bloody ordeal at the hands of the militiamen. “They are doing it because we are Muslims.”

Editor’s Note: Only part I of Mr. Power’s article was re-published on Visegrad Genocide Memories – the part dealing with Visegrad. The complete article can be found here.

Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge:A Monument to Genocide

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 3, 2009 by visegrad92

Image: Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge built by the Ottomans. Hundreds of Bosniaks(Bosnian Muslims) were murdered and thrown off the bridge into the Drina River by Bosnian Serbs. Picture Copyright © Velija Hasanbegovic

Witness X(Zeljko Lelek case, Court of Bosnia&Herzegovina):

“Zeljko Lelek, Mile Joksimovic and Vlatko Pecikoza arrived almost at the same time at the bridge. Lelek was in a taxi driven by Bosko Djuric. They took out two women out of the car, both were in their early 20s, one was carrying a five to six month old baby. Vlatko grabbed the baby from her and said ‘Let the baby have some fresh air’. He took it and threw it up in the air. Lelek was holding a knife and caught the little body on it,” the witness said, adding that Joksimovic then forced the mother to lick the child’s blood “in order to stop the bleeding”.

Witness KB(Zeljko Lelek case, Court of Bosnia&Herzegovina):

“I saw them bringing two older people whose hands were tied. One was wearing a French beret on his head. They lined them up by the water and forced them to go into the water. When the water was up to their waist, the men started shooting. People fell down and I was sick from watching it,”

Witness Hasan Ajanovic(Vasiljevic, Lukic case):

“Lukic told us to wade out into the water,” he said, interviewed by telephone from a Western European country that he insisted not be identified. “I did not hear the first shot, I suspect because Lukic’s gun had a silencer. But I heard the screams and then the other shots. Meho’s body fell on top of me. I lay with my face in the sand until night. I swam across the river and escaped. The water stank of death.” (Source)

Image: From Joe Sacco’s “Gorazde: A Safe Area”

Witness Mesud Cocalic:

“The bodies were often slashed with knife marks and were black and blue,” he said. “The young women were wrapped in blankets that were tied at each end. These female corpses were always naked. We buried several children, including two boys 18 months old. We found one man crucified to the back of a door. Once we picked up a garbage bag filled with 12 human heads.”(Source)

Witness Hasena M. :

“watched them put my mother and sister astride the parapet, like on a horse. I heard both women screaming, until they were shot in the stomach. They fell in the water – the men laughing as they watched. The water went red.” (Source)

Image: From Joe Sacco’s “Gorazde: A Safe Area”

Witness Hasnija Pjeva:

“If the Drina River could only speak, it could say how many dead were taken away,”(Source)

GENOCIDE ON THE RIVER DRINA (NA DRINI GENOCID)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2009 by visegrad92

Nidžara Ahmetašević, Sarajevo – “Denying genocide is almost a certain sign that a country that has committed one has not gone through an awakening, which means that a danger of repeating genocide still exists.”

Such is one of the uncomfortable conclusions of this book by Edina Becirevic, noting the fact that the reality of genocide is still denied in those very regions of Bosnia where it was committed and where most people were killed in the war.

Her book, an adapted doctoral dissertation, sets out convincing evidence that genocide was committed against Bosniaks in eastern Bosnia in 1992 and 1993. By presenting hard facts, she confronts all those who claim that only the mass murders committed in Srebrenica in July 1995 can be considered genocide.

Becirevic gives an overview of genocide history, touching on the destruction of the city of Troy, the wars of Jingis Khan, the medieval Church’s crusades, the Nazi Holocaust and the slaughter in Rwanda in 1994. To prove that genocide was committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992 and 1993, Becirevic refers to a number of key documents of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, ICTY, and testimonies given before the tribunal, as well as other documents pertaining to the establishment of the Republika Srpska and the connections between the Republic of Serbia and the territory controlled by the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic during the war.

She contends that genocide was committed not only in Srebrenica, but in the eastern Bosnian towns of Zvornik, Vlasenica, Bratunac, Rogatica, Foca and Visegrad.

“The genocide methods were identical in each of these towns and villages,” Becirevic writes, mentioning that the places were first shelled, weapons confiscated from Bosniak citizens, and then civilians deported, detained in camps, or killed.

“A genocide is characterized by the lack of sanctions, but it often also refers to the international community, which frequently becomes an accessory in genocide by taking a role of a passive observer,” the author asserts.

Becirevic, who teaches at Sarajevo University but has also worked as a journalist for years, manages to elaborate an extremely difficult topic in a way that is highly readable. Her literary skills make it possible to read this book almost as if it was a bestseller.

By advancing convincing arguments and drawing on a deep knowledge of genocide theory, Becirevic will surely persuade most unbiased readers of the validity of her thesis. In doing so, she calls on a number of interviews with survivors or witnesses who used to live in the towns she wrote about.

The forward, by Professor Robert Donia, recommends the book to “all those who wonder how thousands of common human beings can transform into genocide perpetrators, attacking their former neighbours and friends”.

Becirevic dedicates part of her book to those who helped other people. One interesting example that she cites comes from the village of Rasput Njive, where the local Serbs rescued their Bosniak neighbours.

Years after the end of the war the author interviewed some of those Serbs. Asked why they helped their neighbours, one told her that he did not know why, but he would do the same again if need be.

This book represents a valuable source of information for those researching genocide history and the horrific events that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region in the early Nineties.

It also contains a wider message for all those pondering human nature in evil times. We must not forget what happened, it says. At the same time, any research into, or mention of, crimes such as genocide, needs to be done carefully and supported by strong arguments.

Autor: Edina Becirevic

Genocide on the River Drina is published by Buybook – Memorija Library, Sarajevo, 2009

——————————————————————————————-

VGM Note: Edina has done an excellent research on the Visegrad genocide, based on eye-witness accounts, documents, interviews done with both Visegrad Bosniaks and Serbs. We are glad to see that (finally) someone has taken into consideration the command responsibility for the crimes committed in Visegrad. Edina refrains to use the term “para-military units” but instead uses the term “special units” for Lukic’s and other units that roamed Visegrad’s streets in ’92. As Edina clearly notes: “Special units, which Serb propaganda calls paramilitary units so as to create opinion that there was no control over them, stayed, and a larger number arrived when the JNA(Yugoslav Peoples’ Army-op.ed.VGM) withdrew from town.“(p.199)

We highly recommend this book.

Post-war Visegrad and victim families.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 30, 2009 by visegrad92
Tragic comic image from Visegrad

Tragic comic image from Visegrad.Association of raped women and victim families gather in Visegrad to mark the genocide commited there. The billboard in the rear reads: "Bosnia and Herzegovina is now safe and secure. It is time to turn towards the future."

Summary:

Visegrad during the 92-95 aggression was marked by ethnic cleansing of it’s Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population. The Bosniaks in Visegrad  made up  62.8% of the entire population of the city before the genocide. Today a few hundred Bosniaks, mainly old people returned and live in suburban areas.

Walking across the Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge

Walking across the Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge. Association of raped women and victim families walk across the Mehmed-pasa Sokolovic Bridge, the notorious crime scene where Bosniak men, women and children were murdered by Serb neighbours and thrown into the river Drina.

Summary:

Many public places and buildings were used by the Bosnian Serb forces, (Army of the Republic of Srpska) made up mainly of Bosnian Serb neighbours and volunteers from Serbia and Montenegro, as detention centers and as places of mass excecution of Bosniaks. These places include: the elementary school “Hasan Veletovac”, the secondary school, the Yugoslav People’s Army base “Uzamnica”  etc.