Category Archives: POP 2018

POP 2018 Report

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This year’s Project on Peacebuilding consisted of participants between the ages of 17-35. This group was filled with thoughtful individuals who listened to one another as they learned about the war in Bosnia and its effect on the Prijedor municipality. Group members created space for processing the events of a difficult past and worked together towards a future filled with acceptance and peace for the communities of Prijedor, Omarska, Trnopolje, Kozarac, Kevljani, and Lubija. The project studied the concentrations camps of Trnopolje and Omarska in the context of the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. Participants had workshops on peace building, listened to survivors’ stories, collected community surveys on the area, and collaborated on memorialization for the areas. As the week progressed with workshops and seminars, it became apparent that the politics of memory came to the forefront of most of our major discussions.

Memory shapes our relationship to the past and our existence in the present moment. The idea of memory is threefold: ​personal, societal, and official​. Personal memory colours one’s own personal experience of an event. This is apparent in the impact of the project on our own perceptions and experiences, as well as the impact of experiencing the war in Bosnia first hand on an individual level. ​Societal memory is created through a collective experience formed from the side of the war on which one found themselves. This creates an absolute truth for some, but as we learned, creates a refuted truth through another group’s eyes. Because of this disagreement, Bosnia and Herzegovina has no absolute truth that can be agreed upon by all of society which, in turn, has created conflict in historical accounts and collective memory. Lastly, ​official memory ​normally is agreed upon by the government officials and generally performed as “truth”. Unfortunately, in the Prijedor municipality, nationalistic monuments have been erected at former concentration camps; history has become a debate, and memorialization for the victims of crimes against humanity have been stifled.

Through this report, the Project on Peacebuilding group has created a “kaleidoscope of memory” ​in order to process the personal memories of the group, the societal memories of the local population, and the official memories that have become a point of contention throughout the country. In this way, the intricacies of this area and the politics of memory can be explored through the eyes of Bosnians, diaspora, internationals, and official accounts.

Download the full report here: POP Report 2018

Community Survey 2018
This is the third year of the Community Survey. POP participants have conducted the community survey in 2015, 2017, and 2018. The survey includes demographic questions (age, gender, ethnicity) in addition to questions about civic participation (registered to vote, donated to parties, participate in organizations). Other questions ask respondents about local perceptions of inter-ethnic relations and peacebuilding. In total, the community survey collected 154 responses in 2018.

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This year, more people had a poor opinion of inter-ethnic programs than in previous surveys. For example, 39% of respondents in Kozarac described interethnic programs as poor in 2018, whereas only 10% did in 2015 and 2017. Similarly, in Prijedor, 26% reported poor opinions in 2018, whereas only 14% had previously.

Select Findings from 2018

  • The economy is still the most important issue (58%), followed by education (16%), healthcare (9%), and inter-ethnic relations (6%).
  • Corruption stands out as an important issue in Prijedor (14%)
  • Drugs stands out as an important issue in Kevljani (10%)
  • The majority of respondents had family abroad (65%), but not in Prijedor (49%).
  • A very low percentage of people donate to political parties.
  • Kevljani has a much higher percentage of retired people (20%).
  • 83% of respondents had not participated in any peacebuilding activities in 2018.
  • 81% of Kevljani were registered to vote, while 64% of Prijedor and only 44% of Kozarac.
  • 52% of respondents rarely or never talk about politics with their family or friends.
  • 57% of Kevljani always votes, while 37% of Prijedor and 31% of Kozarac.

An Afternoon with Conversation, Coffee, and Plums

By Alyse

I experienced my first sunny, rainless, afternoon in Kevljani as Merima and I ventured down the street to find participants for the community survey. As we began to get to know each other, I found myself following her to pick plums from a nearby tree. Though I love plums, I do not usually have opportunities to eat them at home, let alone pick fresh ones for snacking during field research. Before I knew it, I had half a dozen in my bag and we continued to the next home. It seemed the only natural thing to do while conducting community surveys, and it really did sustain us as we were navigating this unfamiliar heat. This moment to me felt so authentic and so, well… Bosnian. Finding fruit and sharing our spoils while walking through the countryside created a space that felt both familiar and new. After Merima assisted me in perfecting my few Bosnian pleasantries, I greeted potential participants before quickly handing the reins to her to clarify and assist them in completing the survey.

As we met different people in the area, I wished for the ability to carry on a conversation, yet I took comfort in their smiles and warm gestures to sit in the shade and have something to drink. As we went door to door, eating plums and experiencing some of the culture of the community, the nuances of this program came more into focus. While this community survey has important implications for future community projects, it also serves as a meaningful way to become more acquainted with Bosnia through the people who live here.

Soon enough, as it happens in Bosnia, a coffee break was needed. Instead of stopping at a café for a quick caffeine fix to go, Azra (another project participant) invited us to her grandparents’ home down the road. After wandering up to a lovely home full of chickens, sheep, and yes, more plum trees, we were beckoned to a patio table shaded by grape vines for coffee and sweets. As trays of different delicious things came through the open window to our table, we began to chat with her grandparents and learn about their experiences. While some individuals choose to keep their experiences quietly held within their hearts, her grandfather told us his story of the war. He chose to be vulnerable with a group of young strangers, describing his experiences of fear, survival, and perseverance through a conflict that ultimately forced him and his family to flee their homeland. Within the last few years, they chose to return to Kevljani to begin the next chapter of their lives in a familiar place. It took courage to leave Bosnia, and it also took courage to return after years in a new country. It was an honor to have this story shared with me, and with it, I put another puzzle piece down in the beautiful, tragic, and special image that is Bosnia.

Ultimately, this day evolved from educational workshops to field research to a Bosnian coffee session at someone’s home, and I revelled in every moment. This peacebuilding project is so many things, but my favorite moments lie in the relationships that have been forged and the experiences that have been described to me. This created a human component to a confusing, frustrating, and terrible conflict: by having intentional conversations with the community, survivors, and my peers, I have learned more about the war. In these new relationships, I see the building blocks for peace. Through storytelling, I see the discovery of new perspectives. As my time here comes to an end, I will hold these experiences and share them in a way that helps others learn the dangers of hatred and othering. I will continue to sort through and piece together my experiences long after I have left Prijedor, but one thing I know for certain is my appreciation for those who shared their deeply personal stories, giving me a glimpse of who they are while showing me the power and strength of the human spirit.

Feeling.

By Nejra Lilic

Even before the start of the peacebuilding project my brain and heart were already struggling with tragedy in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. As my roots are from Srebrenica, I left a deep pain there and I keep it just for myself. I was really afraid that I would simply have a logical understanding of events that happened but would not experience it emotionally in a deeper way, although it seems unlikely because of the personal loss of closest family members.

We began the program with a screening of a very emotional film. There were tears but still not the deeper feeling that I needed to experience. Maybe it sounds strange that I wanted to feel pain and deep sorrow, but I need a powerful emotion in order to embrace and associate this tragedy almost as I did with Srebrenica.

Through second and third day, we were collecting surveys from the people of Kozarac so I did not have time and space for reflecting and truly absorbing. But on the third day, I had a milestone that directed me to this important feeling. Namely, during the survey, I was interviewing a Bosnian Serb who was so passive-aggressive and turning facts. I felt so offended and hurt, which showed me what it was like for the affected communities living here. I respectfully tried to put the facts in the right context for him but that feeling that I needed to correct him also put me in the skin of community members.

Despite visiting many memorials, my feelings were not yet clear, so I put all hopes in visiting Omarska concentration camp in order to close this gap between my pain and the pain of this community. When we got to Omarska, I felt goose bumps all over my body. We were listening to the difficult story of Kemal, a survivor of the camp, and my goose bumps transformed into tears. One of his sentences deeply moved me: “I was surrounded by so many people right then but at that moment I felt the loneliest ever in my life.” I became frozen. Tears were dropping down my face. It touched the place in my heart right where it should. The same sentence was heard in many videos of people executed in Srebrenica.

Tt was hard for me but finally the shame of not feeling the pain of this community disappeared. I felt pain and sorrow but at the same time my humanity came back. Later that day, I got another affirmation. I recognized another similarity in one of the rare female survivors of Omarska concentration camp: she emphasized that the bullet was considered a reward for detainees and in Srebrenica. It is often heard that the bullet is the only thing they got. The victims and similarities between Srebrenica and Omarska helped me to get to really understand.

I am really thankful on this opportunity where I could develop emotionally and mentally.

 

The Forgotten Camp

By Minela

A confined space, aggressive interrogations, and dehumanization are just a few of terms that may come to mind when trying to describe the word ‘concentration camp’. In the discussion of the concentration camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina not only did these things happen, unfortunately the politics of memory have created an inability to properly memorialize what happened.

During World War II, the outside world was appalled and disgusted about the treatment of millions of European Jews, Roma, and other minority groups. When the information of the treatment that went on in the concentration camps or as many would call them prison or work camps people were quick to recognize the brutal and inhumane treatment of these people. Fast forward to the early 90’s in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you could see a similar sight. If journalists had not heard rumors about the camps and fought to document the truth, most of the world would not be aware of what they thought would never occur again after WW II. For myself, it came as an utter and complete surprise to find that most of the concentration camps used in the 1990’s war were either unoccupied or serving a purpose other than a commemoration sight like that of Auschwitz. The most infamous WW II concentration camp Auschwitz today serves to remind the world of what hatred and military force can do to the masses. So why is that message not clear in the former camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina today?

Before spending a week with the Most Mira team, I had the very naive idea that genocide denial didn’t exist, and if it did, it was with the few who we’re uneducated. During the time I spent with Kemal (a survivor of the Omarska concentration camp) and the Most Mira team, I quickly learned that the camps and the remembrance aspects of them were rarely talked about. I hoped that by coming to Prijedor I could single handily solve the denial behind the camps. I sadly came to find out the problem was deeper than I imagined it to be. I continue to struggle to understand the situation as I thought it was a black and white issue and solution. I hope to persevere and use my research to help aid in a discussion of the camps and begin the understanding process it so desperately needs.

Sladjana

By Merima IMG_20180805_201500Jašareviæ

The first night we came to Kevljani, a sympathetic young lady came to talk to me. She told me: My name is Sladjana. My mother is Russian. I’m from Omarska, but I live in Prijedor. I want to be an actress (she said that with beautiful large smile). She also told me that she is already into acting, she has been doing some performing in some peacebuilding programs. Somebody asked her if she was Serb. She said yes.

I’m a teacher. I teach in high school. She is about the same age of my pupils. She looks like them. She talks like them. She dreams like them. Why would anybody think that she was different from them? She is not. She is different from a lot of young girls and boys from her school. If somebody wants to know why, I will tell you. Because she is brave.

Last year, she, Sladjana, a Serb girl, wanted to support the White Armband Day in Prijedor, the town where she lives. She was captured by a Serb policeman.
He asked her: where do you think you are going?
She said: I want to go there.
He said: Why? Aren’t you Serb?
She said: I’m, but I want to go there. I want to support them.
He said: You must not go there! He grabbed her arm badly and put her in the corner.
She said: Let me go!
He told her: No! You are not going anywhere! You are Serbian girl! You are suppose to be on our side. She was struggling to escape, but he didn’t want to let her.
Then she heard: You are embarrassing all Serbs!

She, somehow, managed to call her father. He immediately came and found her in the hands of THE SERB policeman. He told the policeman to let her go wherever she wants to go. He constantly repeated: She is THE SERB! Her father explained to that great Serb that she was attacked by Serbs, that they wanted to set her things on fire and called her bad names…

Her father was in VRS army. He is suppose to be SERB, right?
Have I mentioned that she was only 16 at the time?
She almost cried while she was telling us the story.
I was crying all time writing this…

Universal Languages

By Margarita Maira

Until four months ago, Bosnia and Herzegovina was an entirely unknown world for me. I had a vague notion that it had been part of Yugoslavia, but that was it. When I did research about the creation of the Regional Youth Cooperation Office, RYCO, in the Western Balkans I, could grasp the depth and consequences of the conflict during the wars in the 1990s and I knew that BiH, as Bosnians call it, had been the most affected of the countries involved. But when I arrived in Kevljani in Northern Bosnia I struggled. Why did neighbors who had lived in perfect harmony all their lives suddenly turn against those with a different religion from them? Why was there no justice after the war? Why is there no official recognition and remembrance of the atrocities that happened in Prijedor? And, again, why did different ethnicities brutally fight each other if they’d coexisted as friends until 1992?

On a more pragmatic level, I was also very lost. The language here is unintelligible for me and even though there are many Bosnians from abroad here for holidays —I’ve learned they get referred to as diaspora— I don’t feeI I can get by on my own without a Bosnian speaker.

Everything around me was foreign and in need of explanations.

This was undoubtedly the aura around everything that surrounded me during the beginning of my stay here until we watched the documentary made by Most Mira’s founder, Kemal Peranovic. As I heard the testimonies about ethnic cleansing, concentration camps and missing persons, I started feeling a familiar uneasiness. All of a sudden, the Bosnian conflict was not an alien thing anymore. As the camera followed a woman still looking for the body of a loved one two decades later, it dawned on me: I have seen this scene countless times before. The landscape and the language differ but the search and the heartbreak is the same. Even though my country returned to democracy in 1990, families of the desaparecidos (“the disappeared”) during the Chilean dictatorship continue to this day waiting for corpse locations to be revealed. Then I realized: the lack of peace that comes with not being able to bury the remains of your own blood knows no borders. The frustration that victim’s siblings, parents or partners face when the perpetrators remain silent, and worse, die comfortably in their beds… the suffering that comes with justice being denied to the survivors is the same in both countries.

As the days went by, the similarities between the Bosnian war and the Chilean dictatorship haunted me. When another participant’s grandfather told us the details of how he managed to escape the Serb army and concentration camp, I couldn’t help but think of my father, whose face was printed in the cover of the newspaper among the 15 most wanted after the 1973 military coup d’état against Salvador Allende. The anxiety of hiding, the fear of escape plans going wrong. These things need no translation.

When two Bosnian survivors narrated their experiences abroad, I couldn’t help thinking of both my parents who fled to Mexico and Italy years before meeting each other. The Diaspora participants who have lived their entire lives in the US due to their parents’ escape were very active during the session. Their burning questions and the answers, with all the associated curiosity and concern of both generations —the survivors and their children— automatically put me in my sisters’ shoes. My sisters left Santiago for Mexico City as young girls, almost babies, and have lived here for over 4 decades now, only returning to Chile occasionally, for holidays.

Finally, Kemal’s courageous testimony of his detention in Omarska concentration camp took me back to friends from my (very political) choir back home. They have also had to pause in the middle of generous and intimate accounts to gather strength to finish a story about the past that they don’t often share. Overwhelmed by emotions, in Omarska and in Santiago, I saw them overcome the difficulty to voice the trauma.

Some of my questions about the Bosnian conflict have expanded, others have found the first pieces of the puzzle that their complex answer implies. I leave with many doubts that I’m hoping to look into after this mind-blowing trip. But the unexpected connection between the horrors of this war and my country’s own history leaves me with one certainty about post-conflict societies: how sad it is that the language of pain is universal.

What can the war in Bosnia teach us about the current migrant crisis?

By Lara Ferruzzi

On the 6th of August 1992, the concentration camps of Trnopolje and Omarska in northwestern Bosnia were made known to the world. It is estimated that around 30,000 people passed through the Trnopolje camp and around 800 people lost their lives in the two camps. What makes these numbers even more shocking is that if today you were passing near these places without knowing what they were, you would never guess that these were places of torture and death. Both Omarska (which was a mine before the war and still is today) and Trnopolje (which consists of a former cultural center and a school that is still used today) lack any form of memorial or commemorative plaque telling about the atrocities that happened there. That’s why every year on the 5th of August (the day foreign journalists first were in Trnopolje and Omarska in 1992) local association KVART symbolically occupies Trnopolje holding panels, debates, showing pictures, and sharing testimonies.

This year I had the honor to attend this event together with the Project on Peacebuilding. What I found profoundly revealing is that the organizers chose to open the event with a panel about migrants, focusing not only on the experience of Trnopolje’s survivors but also inviting three Afghan brothers that fled war in their country – eventually arriving in Sarajevo – to share their experience. I think this shows great empathy: as people who have suffered war, torture, deaths of dear ones, and displacement from their home country, Bosnians understand what people who flee their country today are going through. However, this also shows a great amount of awareness about the everyday conditions migrants are currently facing, which are getting worse and worse. The organizers mainly focused on the conditions of refugees who are currently living in camps in the towns of Velika Kladusa and Bihac, located near the Bosnian-Croatian border.

A comparison between pictures taken in the camps of Velika Kladusa in 2018 and Trnopolje in 1992

As I watched the panel, I really understood that no one ever wants to leave their home. Bosnian people were forced to leave in order to survive and many of them still today, more than 20 years after the war, still talk about themselves as migrants or refugees. And this is also what is happening today. People—like the Afghan refugees—are leaving their homes trying to find peace and a normal life. They are not trying to steal our jobs or invade us as many politicians would like us to think.

But I also saw this parallel between the Bosnian war refugees and refugees today as a warning, a wish to make people understand that the horrors that happened in Bosnia during the war don’t have to be repeated. People detained in Omarska and Trnopolje were considered “illegal” by their guards and by the politicians who started the ethnic cleansing process. Migrants trying to escape their countries today to find a normal life are considered “illegal” by current politicians. But how can a human being be “illegal”? I think considering another human being “illegal” is just the first step of the “creation of the other.” We try to exacerbate what divides us, rather than thinking about what we have in common. Once we start to consider human beings who are like us as the “others,” it becomes easy to forget they actually are human beings. This process of dehumanization is at the roots of what happened in Omarska and Trnopolje.

If we are not alert and careful, atrocities like the ones that happened during the war in Bosnia could happen again. Maybe to some extent they are already happening, thanks to our compliance and to the poisonous xenophobic rhetoric of many politicians worldwide. So next time you hear someone on tv say that a human being is “illegal” just because they entered a foreign countries without papers, stop for a minute and think about what happened in Bosnia during the nineties, think about all of those who died just because someone decided to label them as the “others” and ask yourself “Do I want this to happen again?”.

The heart of a pigeon, and other postcards of Peacebuilding

By Phoebe Graham

I press my forehead against the window of our van as we enter Bosnia & Herzegovina. The landscape swills, filling my locked eyes with land and livestock. Between sheep field, sunshine and high-reaching mosques, sporadic streams of houses are punctuated by half-eaten structures, bullet-ridden ruins of homes destroyed. They linger as unwanted shadows, like a leftover carcass, but their crooked and toothless lean somehow seems quite natural, as if they have always, and will always be there. Our resident historian, Nicolas Moll, turns to us from the front seat and says that the ostensibly ordinary places that we are going to visit are transformed once their histories are unveiled, and these ghostly remnants are exhumed.

*

A pond of puppies rolls over, bellies up, and I learn my first words in Bosnian; I say ‘Sdravo’ to every one of them. The phrases tumble through my sieve-thin memory, but I manage to retain a scattering of common phrases within the greater meta-languages of the Serbs, the Croats and the Bosniaks. We then huddle up in a hiking lodge and learn of the post-Dayton political structure of BiH and how it compares to pre-war conditions. Just as I discerned from the inter-ethnic variations of the language, I learn that the rhetoric of these ethnic divisions and notions of ethnonationalism are more deeply ingrained than I had at first thought. These divisions underscore a great proportion of the difficulty with the country’s post-conflict politics and efforts of peacebuilding. Disheartened by those who push away and other their neighbours as a result of the war’s forced difference, I look around and am reassured by seeing half a world (local, diaspora and international together) crowded into one room, all hoping to build a better world over a Bosnian beer and an embraced unity. We leave the lecture and dance together on top of the mountain.

*

Sladjana flips her hair with a cheeky smile and takes me by the arm. We wind through the streets and people of Prijedor, jotting down surveys on social and inter-ethnic relations. The city pulses with the heat and emptiness of a Sundayafternoon, but we manage to find snoozing waiters, some wandering friends and the school at which Sladjana is currently educated. She tells me her story: one marked by personal discrimination, unnecessary victimization and the local authority’s denial of Sladjana’s considerate care, concern and desire to remember, but a tale that is also held together by an unshaken determination. “This is my town,” she tells me. I think of how brave Sladjana is to have the courage to share her memories and feel saddened by the unfair imposition of post-conflict divisions on this younger generation. But, arm in arm, we both know that nothing is going to stop her from remembering, or from doing the right thing.

*

Voices magnify through microphones under a smooth blanket of stars. Streams of dinner tables and rugs are set, waiting for our shared attention and remembrance of the closing of the Trnopolje and Omarska camps. We are told stories relating to the camp, of migration to Bosnia and the history of monuments. We witness historical parallels and rainbow lights, pockets of memory held up to illuminate the shadows of an under-memorialised conflict. Testimonies of endurance and survival are given by refugees from Afghanistan who made it to Bosnia for a fresh start, a story of lost brothers shouting their secret code from mountaintops to find each other again. My new friend Anes whispers translations into my left ear and I am warmed by how many voices and languages are interacting in this process ofmemorialisation. I lie on my side with my head on my back-pack and wish that all of my lessons could be taught under the night sky.

*

Blinking sweat under the heat of the midday sun, our van approaches a Mittal Steel factory, the former Omarska concentration camp. The accompanying lake fractures its looming upturned reflection. Its mirror image, like its memory, does not settle; the factory’s dark and uncomfortable shadow of its former self invades the present, forcing a rupture. We wander around a maze of slighting shifting white balloons, holding strings which attach us to those who were detained in the camp and are still missing today; the silence of these memories in flight is a subtle, gentle and heartfelt response to the silence that the affected families face every day, a silence made from the loss of their loved one and from those who refuse to acknowledge, to search or to take action to remember them. This drifting congregation lingers like lumps in the throat, whispering volumes within quietude. The founder of Most-Mira, human rights advocate and one of the strongest people I know, Kemal Pervanić, speaks of his time held in the camp. Each word stings the chest, and I think of how Kemal and hundreds of others could possibly face the annual return to a site in which they experienced the very worst of (in)humanity. But then I remember my first night spent in BiH watching the film Kemal made addressing these issues, called Pretty Village. There’s a moment when someone describes the bravery of pigeons; when they were scared away, they would always manage to come back. Akin to a pigeon, the hearts of former prisoners like Kemal are stronger than the guns of their perpetrators. The bravery to share their direct experience of atrocity, to speak out, to return and to remember this war, especially against a political backdrop orchestrated by secrecy and denial, powerfully transforms the hearts of these men into walking memorials.

*

My feet dangle over the edge of our patio in Kevljani, above tangled bushes and fallen apples. We are neighbours to a headless house, windowless and eviscerated. When we started to uproot Bosnia & Herzegovina’s history, in order to make sense of the ruins that I first saw, I thought there were only narratives of fear, tension, and oblivion to be found. Certainly, I have learned of a society stuck in limbo, a present moment still haunted by its intruding past. I have witnessed how the Dayton accord might have ceased the violence of the War in the 90s, but it also institutionalised conflict in its place, which is why this ruin is so easy to take in by the eye. But then I look further. I notice a tree growing from within, sprawling across the roofless abode to provide shelter: a green umbrella of helping hands. Out of this destruction, life still grows in peaceful measure; forgiveness is forward thinking which makes it harder, but always stronger than hate. These seeds of hope have been planted by people like Kemal and all those who have dedicated themselves to working towards reconciliation and a more peaceful present, so that their past can finally settle into history – Čuvaj se.

Targeted killings of intellectuals in Prijedor and the importance of education

By Muamer Hirkić 

Because of conflicts in the post-Soviet space and Yugoslavia, words such as “ethnic conflict” and “ethnic cleansing” were introduced and currently they remain one of the burning issues of contemporary politics. The idea that lies behind the security dilemma seems very much alive, in many cases hidden behind the veil of cooperation. While there are some improvements, the society in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still largely divided. The story of Prijedor is in many ways similar to the story of Srebrenica, the city I was forced to leave as a baby, in the arms of my mother. Prijedor is the place that shows every aspect of human evil and deception. In a single day, all of those who sat with you, drank a coffee with you, and lived next to you simply turned against you. Places such as Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm remain symbols of the silent suffering of the locals.

Like every other day, Prijedor’s citizens also went to work in April 1992. However, at the entrance they were approached by armed cops who made it clear that this was the end of their employment there. According to the 1991 census, the municipality of Prijedor had more Bosniak inhabitants than Bihać, Travnik and Mostar. Through the stories of many people, I knew that Prijedor was seen before the war as a partisan city where unity exists, but it turned out that in the end it was not like that. The visiting lecturers on our Diaspora and Politics panel have repeatedly emphasized that the education is the main tool young people can use so they do not repeat mistakes of the older generation and build peace.

During the war there has been an attempt of the systematic extermination of intellectuals in Prijedor. In 1992, many intellectuals got taken to concentration camps around the municipality. While listening to different stories of survivors, it is easy to see that many people who were intellectuals, professors and doctors were systematically killed. One of the most recent articles dealing with this topic is Dragan Bursać’s story on doctor Eso Sadiković, the man who was brutally murdered in Omarska. Doctor Sadiković was loved by the people of Prijedor since he always helped them and treated them. One of the interesting stories connected to him is the fact that he would stitch wounds on the body with his own hair since there was no thread. In the moment when he was taken to be killed, all the other prisoners started crying. At that point, Sadiković turned around and said to everyone: “Why are you crying? F**k you!” At that point, they all applauded him and in this way he was seen off to death. Afterwards, the Serbian authorities said Eso “went to Nicaragua,” as a way of trying to hide this vicious crime that happened. One of the people who did this was also one of his best friends, Doctor Mićo Kovačević.

In Kemal’s movie “Pretty Village”, one of the most striking scenes happens when he, as a survivor of Omarska concentration camp, confronts his old teacher who was also the prison guard in Omarska. This shows how educated people can also be used as the important tool of the war machinery. In one of the war documentaries on Prijedor, Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshall asked the soldiers in Omarska to show what is going on with the prisoners. In that moment soldiers have decided to put on a show for the public and deceive everyone by not admitting horrible things that happened in Omarska. This shows how far human beings are ready to go to justify their wrongdoings.

For accepting the truth, the courage is needed. Peacebuilding represents an ultimate goal where empathy replaces hatred and the dialogue replaces the use of hard power.

Post-Mortem: Trip to Nowhere

By Igor Stipic

It has already been more than 20 years since some parts of the multi-ethnic socialist republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) took a violent historical turn. Such political projects – embodied in the creation of Republika Srpska (RS) – are reminiscent of dominant present day politics of progressive entitization and segregation of BiH imagined community. Based upon the ethno-nationalist narrative of belonging, such political vision desires national homogeneity, identifying the “ethnic other” as unwanted weeds found inside one’s own garden. Furthermore, it proposes its physical removal as the solution that inevitably leads towards the increase in “our” prosperity and well-being. Thus, and according to the ethno-national perspective, the problems overdeteriming the space of BiH during the nineties (but likewise nowadays) were (are) bound to disappear from the historical scene as soon as the old country with its fairytales of multi and inter-ethnicity would enter its clinical death.

However, perspective taken from the historical distance allows us to assert how the time passed has not brought any kind of betterment (economic, social, etc.) to these ethnically cleansed areas. Rather, as the movie director fast-forwards and places us in 2018 detriments seem more prominent than improvements. In the meantime, I, as the main character of this reflection, find myself on the way from Mostar to Prijedor (Kevljani). As bus trip seems reminiscent of the path taken during the dark 90ies, images flipping inside of my mind bring some impressions. While contemplating the destiny of those navigating on the boat called Dayton BiH, I start wondering where has the ethno-national historical turning taken us to? Did these “ethnically pure areas,” after all the pain they have caused, result in more beautiful and more fruitful gardens than those mixed ones inside of which we used to live?

Looking around the bus I notice some faces of my fellow country(wo)men, faces that hint some answers with regards to the state BiH finds itself in. The bus driver, a tall and skinny man in his early thirties, discusses the employment problems with his colleague. Rather unhappy to be ordered by his boss to take this ride moments after finishing a long tour towards Belgrade and back, he starts the infamous RS topic of moving for work to Slovenia. Despite much better pay, the idea of migrating doesn’t particularly delight him and two men agree that leaving ones country is not an easy thing. Unfortunately, during the nineties many people were not kindly asked whether or not they would like to leave places their families called homes for centuries. Still, ethno-national perspective instructed that there was no place for them inside of such politico-identitarian invention. And even if not presented as the future to arrive by propaganda material of the 1990s, current reality of Republika Srpska is not material abundance but massive exodus. Thus, as pure ethnic “republics” fail to bring promised well-being, emigration today is purely socio-economic and political as it is not anymore necessary to expel population by force. In this sense, even if I lack any kind of concrete answers to clarify my doubts and wonders, it seems that the (bus) ride didn’t bring the expected pleasure and even the path may be wrong.

In the meantime, a young blonde disrupts the talk complaining to the driver how the bus is running very late and how she will not be able to arrive on time for the baptism ceremony of her godson. Considering the state of things, I wonder what kind of future awaits this child in BiH? Turning my look to the right I notice an older woman with melancholic expression stamped in her eyes. Possibly considering memories of a life gone by and of her grandsons living in Scandinavia or Germany, the lady stares into the distance and remains in silence while, with eyes filled with tears, she seems to be at that fragile point of a breakdown. Being late for the seminar and still remaining quiet, I think about yet another summer spent in the country I was born in, and which, once again, I have to leave for work. At once, I start wondering how close we are to the notorious wartime camp of Omarska, an embodiment of a place which during the nineties dealt with the unwanted element of ethno-national project. As there are no signs or any information regarding this tragic part of our history, for an outsider visiting RS it remains rather difficult to know its location. Still, I feel how the souls of the lost and tortured there keep wandering around and, as if blocked in a limbo, demand justice of remembrance. Regardless of the official politics of denial perpetrated by a fact of inexistent justice and humanism in this socio-political space, the destiny of the lost seems to be part of our destiny too. Then and suddenly, I join the melancholic lady on my right and get eyes filled with tears. It is a rather strange feeling affecting the sensitive stomach and causing the throat to tighten. The ride is rather chaotic and unpleasant, curves sharp and the path taken seems definitely wrong.

Tears seem to win the contest very often in this new BiH. Here, our everyday lives, just like the never ending bus ride itself, offer troubling experience with unknown destination and unforeseen consequences. Hopefully, we can still turn around, realize our wrongs and chose some different path, one filled with more humanity, love and respect for our neighbors, a type of love that arises from human values any one of us possesses and which are not predetermined by ethno-national belonging of Bosnians and Herzegovinians. Otherwise, I dare to think that we are likely to continue living in a state of clinic death that was induced in the 90s, a death inside of which our “leaders” keep getting rich, our people keep migrating to various parts of Europe, and our godsons keep being born without any prospects of a decent future.