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Bosnia-Hercegovina marks 20th anniversary of war

5:45 pm - 04/06/2012


Ceremonies in Sarajevo are marking 20 years since the start of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, a conflict that saw the worst atrocities in Europe since World War II.

The conflict began in April 1992 as part of the break-up of Yugoslavia.

About 100,000 people were killed and nearly half the population forced from their homes in four years of fighting.

Red chairs fill the street in Sarajevo where the conflict began - 11,541, one for each victim in the city.

People have been placing white flowers on some of the chairs as they walk alongside them.

A teddy bear, toys and schoolbooks have been placed on some of the small chairs which symbolise children killed during the four-year long siege by Serb forces.


Sarajevans were asked to stop what they were doing at 12:00 GMT for an hour to mark the start of the conflict.

Many have been walking past the chairs, which stretch for 800m (half a mile) along the central street in Sarajevo named after the founder of Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito.

On a stage in front of the chairs, a choir with a small classical orchestra has been performing songs, many of them composed during the siege.

"Those people gave their lives for the freedom of this town. They loved this town. They were killed just because they were citizens of this town, because they were at their homes, at their schools, at their playgrounds," concert organiser Haris Pasovic is quoted as saying.

The Reuters news agency says the autonomous Serb area of the country is ignoring the anniversary of the start of the fighting.

For three years and eight months in the early 1990s, Sarajevo was a city under siege. The mainly Muslim population took cover, as Serb gunners barraged the city from the hills surrounding it.

The worst single atrocity during the war was at Srebrenica, in eastern Bosnia, in July 1995. Bosnian Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic, overran what should have been a UN safe haven. About 8,000 Muslim men and boys were taken away and killed.


As a result the UN changed the mandate for its mission and allowed force to be used.

But the war in Bosnia was a three-way mix, involving Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

The European Union's special representative to Bosnia, Peter Sorenson, says that during the war, trust and relations between people were simply destroyed. All of this, ­he says, can never be forgotten or "wiped away".

The BBC's Genc Lamani says that the aspirations for a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural Bosnia have not yet become a reality. Many people in Bosnia believe the war was too high a price to pay for such hopes, our correspondent says.

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rebness 6th-Apr-2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
I visited Sarajevo a few years ago and I too was struck at how visible the signs were. The library was a burnt-out shell, and yeah, there were bullet holes all over the place. Mostar was a shock, too. There was a building right near where I stayed - I suppose there might have been a sniper inside there because bullet holes were peppered all around one window. I stayed with a Bosnian family and their tales of what happened were chilling. The son was about the same age as me and to think of this happening, not too far away, was mind-boggling.

The whole time I was there whenever I saw someone about my age it was impossible not to compare their adolescence to mine.

This so much.

Oh! And the Sarajevo roses, often right near pavement cafes or a school, were really affecting.

I should say, though, that I found Bosnia to be such a beautiful country (uh, reblogging that photo of the river on your Tumblr right now) and the people I met were awesome. One of my favourite places on Earth. <3

Edited at 2012-04-06 07:55 pm (UTC)
13chapters 7th-Apr-2012 04:48 am (UTC)
omg, isn't bosnia beautiful? The whole time from Sarajevo to Mostar, I fantasized about buying a house on the river and living there and how beautiful it would be. And then when I got to Mostar, I ran into a guy who had been staying in my hostel in Sarajevo, and he told me "isn't the river beautiful? the whole time on the bus here, I fantasized about buying a house here and just looking at that view every day." I was like "LOL RIGHT" and then just when I was leaving Mostar, I heard someone shouting my name and lo and behold, it was someone I knew in Bulgaria*! She had just gotten off the bus from Sarajevo and said "isn't the river beautiful? The whole time I was on the bus, I fantasized about living in a house here and rowing on the river every day!"

Soon everyone will want to live on the Neretva River.

*This isn't as weird as it sounds because we were both education volunteers in the Peace Corps and we had the same vacation schedule. This was during our spring break.
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