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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.

4eyedblonde 6th-Apr-2012 05:24 pm (UTC)
Here's some pictures of the chairs. Really powerful pictures.
belkisa 6th-Apr-2012 05:38 pm (UTC)
ia ty for posting them. I found this pictures on tumblr
the small chairs with toys symbolize the children that were killed

it looks like the red line never ends :(
4eyedblonde 6th-Apr-2012 05:41 pm (UTC)
I wonder what the idea was behind using red chairs. It's a bit odd.
belkisa 6th-Apr-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
This particular ceremony is called Sarajevo Red Line. 11,541 empty chairs arranged in 825 rows

The 11,541 empty chairs symbolize the 11,541 victims of the war and I think they are red as a metaphor for blood. It's a memorial event with musical guests dedicated to the Sarajevo citizens killed during the 1992-96 siege. The memorial is for the victims - they are the "audience" and I read, that no one is allowed to sit on the chairs. That's why they used red chairs.
mingemonster 6th-Apr-2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
I don't know what the people who created this meant, but for me it brought to mind what other empty seats are left after those who died. School benches, dinner tables, offices...
seishin 7th-Apr-2012 02:58 am (UTC)
To symbolize blood? The last shot in the entry makes me think of a river.
13chapters 6th-Apr-2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
I've been posting some about this on my Eastern Europe tumblr. I've been a little surprised by how many reblogs I've gotten - usually I get like 5 or 6 for an article, but I got ~20 on this topic. And people have a lot to say about it. I think it's good people haven't forgotten what happened, and are still talking about it.

I don't want to get too far into cool story territory, but I visited BiH a few years ago and found it to be a deeply affecting experience. The visible signs of war are still everywhere. I mean, EVERYWHERE. Random houses in Sarajevo are fucking covered in bulletholes. You can tell what's been built or remodeled since the war because if it doesn't have bulletholes, it must be new. (And after I was in Sarajevo I went to Mostar, which is even more badly damaged - Sarajevo is far more along in the rebuilding stage, Mostar is still filled with empty shells of buildings covered in signs warning people not to enter due to unexploded ordinances.) I was in junior high and high school throughout the siege of Sarajevo, and of course those were really informative years of my life. The whole time I was there whenever I saw someone about my age it was impossible not to compare their adolescence to mine.
belkisa 6th-Apr-2012 06:03 pm (UTC)
What's your tumblr? I'd like to see your posts about Bosnia :)

Yes, sadly the signs of war are still everywhere, but also lots of it has been rebuilt since then. The damaged houses can be rebuilt, but worst of all is that the people are damaged from the war and this can't be recovered. This wounds never heal. Whenever I'm in Bosnia war is still a big talking subject there. They can't forget (and should not forget). The war is over, but the things there haven't changed. Politics are a huge problem in Bosnia.

I hope you had a great time in Bosnia. I always enjoy it there. Bosnia is such a great place.
13chapters 6th-Apr-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
I ~curate~ fuck yeah eastern europe.

Politics in Bosnia are absolutely dreadful. I have some tentative hope that now that they have a government things might improve a little but somehow I doubt it. IDK if there's even a way to reverse the dysfunction.
belkisa 6th-Apr-2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
It's a mess. Bosnia has 3 (!) rotating presidents, a Bosnian, a Croat and a Serb and all of them basically want what they wanted back in 1992. It's a dysfunctiunal system.
red_pill 6th-Apr-2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
good lord. thats...special. it sounds like(and proberbly is) the kind of thing done becous the old other soulstion is a second anther balklands war. "we can all take it in turns".

i wish i could get some handle on it. it was a bit befor my time (the first conflict i can remember at all is kosovo). ive tryed wiki, but...it dosent give me a feel for it. cant find any good books in bookshops either

sorry, ive rambled.
13chapters 7th-Apr-2012 04:37 am (UTC)
It's a super complicated conflict, so if you're interested in learning about it, I recommend reading at least a few books on the topic, so you can get a feel for the biases. A good start is The Death of Yugoslavia, by Misha Glenny. But even after I read a lot about it, I still found it confusing. So many names I didn't know how to pronounce, so many places I'd never heard of. It took going to the former Yugoslavia (I lived in Bulgaria for a couple years, which is right next to what used to be Yugoslavia, so I had the opportunity to travel all over the Balkans) and talking to a lot of people and THEN rereading some of the stuff I'd already read to really get what had happened.
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.
seishin 7th-Apr-2012 02:55 am (UTC)
The whole time I was there whenever I saw someone about my age it was impossible not to compare their adolescence to mine.

You and I are around the same age, and this just hit me like a punch in the gut. Your entire post was very powerful. Thank you for sharing your experience traveling there with the comm. (hopefully this doesn't come across at trite!)
13chapters 7th-Apr-2012 04:43 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad I didn't come across as maudlin and, uh, self-centered. It's just like, a really large period of some very informative years of my life, this war was going on, and I knew it was BAD, but I didn't really understand it very well. Going to BiH and seeing people just hanging out in cafes and riding on trams like TOTALLY NORMAL PEOPLE who hadn't gone through this incredibly traumatic event while at the same time the biggest problem in my life was that my mom wouldn't buy me designer jeans...I don't even know where I'm going here. But it was very affecting, yeah. I cried a lot when I was there, which in turn made me feel like an asshole, because the people who had actually gone through the hardships instead of just seeing the damaged buildings 20 years later weren't sitting around crying.
johnjie 6th-Apr-2012 10:46 pm (UTC)
God, that's heartbreaking.
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