My name is Mirza Demirović, I am from Sanica, Bosnia and Herzegovina where I was born and reside today. When I was 14 years old the Bosnian war had started and the Serbian army was quick to secure my town, I have been living in occupation for 1 year, through brutal laws enforced unto us and people getting pushed into concentration camps.
The massacre in my region would eventually be known as the Biljani Massacre, where a lot of my friends were even killed. My Great Grandfather unfortunently had no luck, he was taken to the Manjača Concentration camp where he was unfortunently killed, while me and my family mamaged to narrowly escape out of the town and by foot made it to Bihać, a city that was being besieged by the Serbian army. My father joined the protection battalion there while me, my mother, grandmother and grandfather had to live in the city as refugees for almost 2 years.
Then Operation Storm came and the siege of Bihać was lifted. A huge liberation operation called "Operation Sana" was innitiated and almost all of western Bosnia was liberated, including the town we lived in. We returned to the town just before the war ended, our house in particular was used as a base for some Serbian soldiers, from the inside it was damaged badly and apmost everything was destroyed, but in about a year we renovated our house entirely. My great grandfather as I said, had no luck as he was killed in the Manjača Concentration camp.
In the link you will find the picture of my great grandfather's hat he always used to wear, including a picture of him in front of your yard in the winter of 1991. Feel free to ask me anything about what I went through.
Edit: Here is more proof, with me standing in front of a little memorial with graves of some of the civillians killed here the proof
Edit 2: I am going to sleep currently, when I wake up I will make Edit 3 to announce I am awake for more questions!
Edit 3: I have woken up to go to the bathroom and found a lot more questions than I expected in these few hours, so unfortunently I will be closing down question answers, for I did not expect my post to become this popular and explode. I want to thank you all for listening to my story, remember, if we do not learn from history, it is bound to repeat itself.
Forgive my ignorance, but I recently learnt about this. Can you explain the life functioned? How did you all have basic utilities? How did the supplies enter the city? Was education still available or halted? How did you even roam the streets or get out if basically the cities were hostage?
Life was very hard under Serbian occupation, you could not go out of your house at all, only rarely could people go out in the streets, put of their yard. Muslims had to wear white armbands pm their arms, so soldiers were aware that they were Muslims and not Serbs (Read about the Prijedor massacre to know more) like the star of David in Nazi Germany. Supplies were very limited, people had to live with what they already have spared or have. The stores did not serve Muslims and we could only get like 2 pieces of Crackers which was not enough, while the Serbs and soldiers got all the good supplies and food. Muslims were forbidden from going to the doctor's too, so if someone got sick you cannot take him for a check up. We mostly lived from the sheep or cows we had in our barns, sometimes secretly giving our neigbors meat from a cow or sheep we slaughtered. After 7 PM it was completely lights out, anyone who had a single piece of light in their house after 7 PM would be killed. Morning inspections at 7 AM were mandatory, every male muslim was obligated to stand in front of their house to be inspected, 2-5 males were sent to the Manjača concentration camp daily, and no one knew who would be next. We managed to escape barely during the night, evading all the Serbian soldiers and sneaking past them while they weren't looking, there is a hill like 25 meters from here, and right above it was safety, you escaped. Because we had that hill so close to our home we managed to escape, if it wasn't for it we wouldn't have made it
It's difficult to understand the current government structure, with 3 separate presidents and from what I gathered all look out for their own and between Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks there is segregation to very high levels. I remember in Mostar the Croats had basically their side of the city, Bosniaks the other, to the point where the Croats had built a road around the Bosniak side so they could bypass it. I had to convince the bus driver to take me across the bridge (coming from Croatia) to the Muslim side as they had built their own bus terminal and tried saying it was the last stop (even though my ticket specified the East terminal). Anyway, do you see the division only spreading, or what are signs of gaps closing and people coming together? How do you think the government situation will be for the next couple decades?
The hard segregation is a true and unfortunate fact in Bosnia. There is 1 school that jas 3 sides for the 3 ethnicities, which is overall a very bad idea. Students and others are protesting against the ethnic segregations in the nation, which our government just ignores wanting more segregation thinking it would stabilize the region. The people don't want it but the government does, and the government is the one in control
In the town I lived in at the time there was a married couple who were refugees from the conflict. He was a Bosniak and she was a Serb, and they said that they would never be able to return to their home because both sides wanted to kill them. How bad is the situation today, would such a couple be able to return today, and if so how much stigma would there be towards them?
The situation here is bad, Bosnia today is like a ticking time bomb that could embroil the nation into a conflict again. After the genocide that had happend many Bosniaks view Serbs negatively because of what they have done. On the other hand some Serbs despise Bosniaks because of tje sentiment implemented towards them during the war, so depending on the region they live in, they may get stigma from one ethnic group, or none at all
What did your father do while he was in battlefield? Did you talk about it?
My father was in the 501st Famous Mountain Brigade. He was trained a s a rifle man when he joined the brigade when we got to Bihać. He was mainly on the front outside the city, guarding it so no surprise attack could be made, he also took part in some raids against abandoned bases by the Serbs. When operation sana started he pushed with the brigade against the Serbs, then merged into the 5. Corps command which proceeded to push towards Banja Luka. After 2 months when the war ended he came back from the army to join us again
At the time when Tito was alive, I know that there was hate and there were occasional shootings, but there was no war. How do you think, how Tito administration managed to hold the situation under control?
Tito had an extremely good Militia and a very well trained Secret Police. If you showed any signs of Nationalism or basically do anything, you would be sentenced to jail immediately. The secret police worked tirelessly, finding out who said what and what they are. That is how his administration had everything under control, a very good law and secret police. When he died the secret police started to decline in terms of training and ability, were a bit un-organized so Nationalism started to grow.
In your opinion, what is the effect of the incident to people of your country in short and long terms?
It has effected every civillian. Everyone lost at least one of their loved ones, if they were not in a city or town getting besieged and have to hear gunfire ever day, they were under Serbian occupation where you either got killed or sent to a concentration camp, or if you are one of the lucky ones, managed to escape to Bosnian held territory. People are still scarred of the events that unfolded here many years ago, and can't continue normal life from what they have witnessed.
I know after the war, the country was broken up in two and one half was broken into ten smaller pieces to separate the ethnic groups. Do you feel that separation will end, and should it?
Personally I am against the Dayton peace agreement. The segregation that is going on between the ethnic groups is dangerous. I do believe in the future the country will centralize into one nation, and why it should? Seperating ethnicities can have a psychological impact on them and leave them more open to propaganda by parents, hate towards another ethnicity etc. The USA started to become a better place when the segregation between blacks and whites was abolished, and I believe it would be good for Bosnia, as well
A friend's husband was a refugee from Bosnia. His family ended up in Germany and then America.
What are your thoughts about how something like this could happen in the 90s and with much more attention in the world stage, now and the 90s? What are your parents thoughts on the oppressors now?
I am really honestly not surprised that a Genocide like that happend in the 90's. Pretty sure many Europeans would kill each other if another country goes to war, that is something every single human has deep down in their hearts and can never let go of. As for my parents they feel sympathy for anyone who is trying to escape a conflict and find safety for their families, we ourselves experienced opression and extermination so we know well how it feels like. They hate anyone who opresses other people or wants a genocide on anyone for anything, having experienced how they operate first hand
Why do you think that this was almost immediately forgotten on the world stage? That always seemed bizarre to me.
The Bosnian genocide is mainly forgotten because it wasn't really reported that much around the world, despite taking place in the centre of Europe. Most genocides today go unnoticed, which is extremely sad for me. It is also relatively unspoken of because there is always oke claiming the other. The Serbs when faced with the genocides, they always say "It mever happend!" Or "We were just fighting Islamic Extremists!" So in order to not piss them off they mostly don't report it, I am not exactly sure why it is that forgotten, but I believe that is one of the key reasons why
Do you feel like any countries are on the same path, or are all the protests such as in Barcelona, Hong Kong, Colombia, and such might just be short lived?
I wouldn't say that for Colombia or Barcelona. But for Hong Kong definitely, it's only a matter of time until the Chinese government pulls the "Kill Switch" like they did before on the student protestors. Syria is very well already there, we Bosniaks sympathize with the refugees because we know how war is like, how it feels like to be hunted and are trying to escape the hunt.
What did you do during the siege?
While I was at Bihać, conditions weren't exactly good, there were many people from other town there that have been conquered by the Serbs, too. We had a small apartment in the centre of the city, we would mostly stay indoors and I had a ball I would play with inside, going outside was risky because of possible artillery strikes. My grandmother usually went out to get food from the refugee centre near our apartment. I would rarely see my father, as I said, he was a member of the defence battalion in the city halting the Serbian lines. It was relatively really boring with almost nothing to do, but at least we didn't fear for our lives
I work with a Bosnian woman whose family fled the genocide and came to Chicago in the 90s as refugees. A couple of years ago she asked me to come to this art installation and it really had a deep impact on me and my understanding of what happened.
How do you feel about art installations like this one that bring awareness to this atrocity?
What are other ways more people can know about this? It was such a horrible event and here in the US, it’s not fully understood the depth of what happened.
I feel like they are useful and should educate the public on what has happend there, so the people are aware. Raising more awareness among the people, they will reckognize genocides and make sure that they don't happen to any person or religion.
Other ways of knowing about it is through reading articles and reading interviews with some of the people who have survived it. There many different ways of finding out more, but you just gotta know the correct one
Do you happen to have friends/family in St. Louis? Apparently we have the second biggest Bosnian population in the world due to refugees following the genocide.
Not that I probably know of. I may have some couzins or distant relatives there but probably do not know them. There are a few peple from Sanica in St.Louis so there is a high chance I have some family there
Hi! I hope I’m not too late here. Your post is so interesting, thank you for your time!
I am going on my honeymoon to Slovenia and Croatia next August, and on our drive from Split to Zagreb we were thinking about stopping in Bihač only for two hours or so for lunch and a beer on the River Una. We are two Americans in our 20s. What can we expect? Should we go? I’ve received answers from both sides. Yes and no. I really want to visit.
Hi there! I've been to Bihać many times after the war, and I can tell you it is magnificent. The architecture and sitting by the river, drinking beer or just eating is one of the most beautiful things ever. If you decide to go I highly recommend the restaurant Čardak
Hej Mirza, kako si ti?
I’ve only recently been exposed to your culture recently, is there a large difference in sentiment between generations? Is there much pull to reform?
There is a big difference between sentiments, yes. Many generations are affected differently by their parents through their propaganda spread to the children. Segregation makes it harder for the ethnicities to cooperate together and leaves them more open to propagandw by their parents, there should be a reform to abolish this segregation as soon as possible
What is your life like today?
My life today is not bad, but also not easy. We organized ourselves again and life just continues to be normal like usual. But people are immigrating slowly to Germany or Switzerland, the economy is really bad in this town. My mother serves as a Teacher in the elementary school and her payment is 3 months late, unfortunently in order to be successfull I have to move somewhere from Sanica
In your opinion, what is the best way to teach future children about atrocities and crimes against humanity like this one, who may not have an opportunity to meet or speak to a survivor? A fear of mine is that these situations won’t be felt as “real” in the future without survivor contact or will be shrugged off as being so far in the past we can’t learn anything from it anymore. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Best way to teach children about it, is having a subject of it in history class, or children generally finding out for themselves waht happend. Currently in Bosnia it is forbidden to talk about the genocides because of the Dayton Peace Agreement. And your fear of it not being real is actually real, Serbs are teaching theur children that the genocide was not real and that they were only fighting "Islamic Extremists" and claiming it is all anti serbian propaganda. The current Serb president denies the genocide ever happend, sadly. And some western children experience that Serbian propaganda and claim the same things, so we need to teach children what happend really, who did it and what they did, if we are not able to teach them history, it is bound to repeat again
I was part of the NATO forces that did the food drops in 93 and 94. I have always wondered if the people on the ground thought they were useful or a waste of resources?
I have witnessed some food droppings when I was in Bihać, but most of the meat that was dropped down was Pork, which we Musliks had to abstain from eating. This became a big joke in Bosnia, and a joke monument was even built in Sarajevo of the pork food sent down
Are there cultural/religious traditions that were unable to be practiced during occupation? If so are you now allowed to practice them?
Oh yes definitely today you are free to practice your religious traditions anywhere you want. While under occupation you could only pray in private in your home, since the Mosque was demolished completely when the Serbs occuppied the town. Anything cultural that was not Serbian was strictly forbidden, you could even get executed for trying to practice it.
since anti-muslim sentiments played a huge role in the genocide, has the practice of islam changed in BiH because of the war? i know plenty of people in diaspora from ex-yugoslavia and while most croats and serbs seem to be very christian, no bosnian i know is religious at all. is that the same inside bosnia? zahvaliti
Bosniaks have started to become less religious becuase of the secularism implemented by Communist Yugoslavia. And no, the practice of Islam hasn't exactly changed much, most people I know here in my town are pretty religious except the younger generation who aren't interested in religion yet claim they are religuous. And I am sure the same situation is all over the country.
Sorry if this is a stupid question, but how was the condition in the camps? Food-wise and environment-wise?
The conditions were a lot better than under Serbian occupation, I can tell you that. We had a little apartment where we resided and daily got some food from the stores and the camps themselves. The environment was not perfect, there were dangers of being hit by artillery strikes but it was still a lot better than fearing for our lives back in Sanica
I do not hate Serbs in general, I am perfectly aware that there are good Serbs put there, not all of them are bad. I personally have some Serbian friends online. I also forgive the Serbs for what they have done, forgivness is possible but you just need to find the right human for it. In tomes like these forgivness is the most powerful weapon of all, but I keep repeating to myself...Always forgive but never forget
First of all Im so sorry you had to go through this. We can only hope for a peaceful future.
My question is can you remember as kid what was your strongest emotions and thaughts the day it started and until it got to the worst part?
Before the war I was just a normal kid like everyone else, played with my friends, went outside, was cycling, basically what a normal human child would do. When the town was occupied, my emotions flipped. I was no longer happy and cheerful, I was sad and scared for my life, scared waht they would do to me and my family, even after we escaped our town those emptions were still sticking with me, I always closed my eyes begging for me to wake up and let it just be a dream, but it was reality...
This was a tragedy and I am sorry for your struggle and loss. You survived. I admire your strength. Through all of this what sort of things sustained you and gave you hope? Was there any cultural thing that gave you strength? Was there any art, music, or literature that elevated your spirit?
I was a history freak back then. I was taught in secret by my parents on who we were, the Bosniaks, since in school it was forbidden to talk about Bosniaks or the history. So when the war started I felt patriotism to finally break free from the 500 years we and our culture were supressed, made believeing we were someone else. That is what made me go on, knowing that they will and never shall win and supress us again. As our first president said "I swear by the great and Holy God, slaves we will never be again"
How were the years after the war? When did your nations reconciliate and how
Years after the war weren't exactly easy, either. We had to re-organize ourselves and fix all the damages the Serbs have done, cleaning up bodies, renovating houses, and all that. You can still see burned down houses in my town today that were left alone. As for how Bosnia reconciliated relations is a tricky question that I believe am unable to answer.
How prevelent was sexual assualts/rapes from serbians? I read about sex slave brothels made with bosnian women in the war and im wondering if you have any experience hearing about something like that.
While I was still in Sanica I heard about some sexual assaults on the women, but never have seen them with my own eyes. But after we returned to Sanica after it was liberated, we started cleaning up some destoryed or burned down houses to retrieve some precious goids that were still intact, my mother told me that in one house that had burned down, 2 naked women were found dead tied to a bed, they were suppsoedly burned alive in the house when the Serbs were retreating
Did you see the UN Forces first hand and, if so, how did you feel about them when they didn't intervene (as their mandate was to observe), even when atrocities were occurring in front of them?
I served as part of SFOR in 98 and saw the result of a country devastated by war first hand.
While I was in Bihać I have seen some UN Peacekeepers here and there, but rarely saw them. As for how I felt, at that time I considered them as heroes who would do anything to protect us against genocide, I was not aware of their failure in Srebrenica and Sarajevo until I got back to Sanica. Not many attrocities have been commited i front of them in Bihać, some mortar strikes were here and there but not that often. I would say I was a bit neutral but just a bit more leaning towards them being heroes, then when I heard of their failure I just consideres them as useless
What is your opinion on the trial of Ratko Mladic in the Hague?
I am happy and thankful that he got convincted for all the attrocities he had commited, he has been on the run for so many years, and everyone who experienced the war and lost a loved one let out a sigh of relief, like a trauma went away from their heart, with justice being given.
My dad participated in this conflict , although I could not tell you to what degree. He has never talked about it. He was with the US Army 1st Calvary Division.
Did you see American troops on a regular basis? What were your thoughts of them?
I don't remember seeing any US Soldiers, both times when I was in Sanica and Bihać. Although I have seen a couple of UN Peacekeepers every now and then, don't recall seeing any or reckognizing any US Soldiers
What is your happiest memory from this period? (I do not want to minimize the attrocities anyone went through)
The happiest memory from this period is the unity that brought us together as people to fight the opressors, that was the very first time I saw unity between the 3 people (Yes Serbs win the Bosnian army, too) so that is a very good thing we came out united as one to beat them
Swede here - what do you think of the Nobel Prize to Peter Handke? He’s hung out with a lot of Serbian war criminals and has defended Serbia in many ways. In Sweden, it has become a huge scandal, and I have to admit I’m very ashamed of the whole thing, as I grew up with a lot of Bosniak friends due to a lot of refugees coming to Sweden.
Personally I was pretty angry that Peter Handke won the Nobel Peace prize, denying a genocide that has happend on European soil with a lot of evidence is just a disgrace. The Serbian war criminals probably fed him up with their claims that there was no genocide or that they were fighting Islamic Extremists, which unfortunently western children also get affected by
How do you feel about the U.S. military operation? What effect did it have on the conflict, if any? What do you think of the timing of it?
I personally believe the US Bombing operation on Republika Srpska after the fall of Srebrenica was a good thing, weakening them so we could concentrate on a counterpush, and eventually we did. But NATO stopped us before we were able to take their capital, which lead to the Dayton Peace agreement. I believe it would have been better if they let us take it, Bosnia would be a centralized country today with no segregation and everything, so the last bit of US intervention was bad for the region as a whole
Aside from religion, how might you describe the cultural differences between Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs?
I ask because I have two good friends, one from Croatia, the other from Bosnia but spent much of his childhood in America. I invited both of them over to a small get-together not thinking much of it. They hit it off, started speaking to each other in their native dialects, talked about traditions they had in common. We were born in the early 90s. None of us are religious at all. It seems like without that division, there’s more of a Balkan common identity, but I’ve never asked either of them very directly, and I’m curious what your thoughts on that are.
The cultural differences are big. Croats have a sort of Hungarian Culture feeling to them, with their national clothing, music and all. Serbs are also sorta the same, with the outfits but cannot pinpoint exactly from where they are. Bosniaks on the other hand have a much more Turkish/Ottoman cultural feeling, from instruments to clothes and even the fez being used in apmost every Bosnian cultural dance
Did anyone involved get prosecuted for war crimes in any court? Are there countries actively pursuing this issue as a human rights violation?
People are still getting prosecuted for war crimes in the Hague, but not all undeortunently. Some mothers from Srebrenica claim they still walk down the streets and reckognize the faces of their rapists because they have not been sentenced to the hague for war crimes
What is your opinion on the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) ?
I dislike the government of theirs highly, especially the ruling party SNSD. Instead of focusing on having better relations and easing the tensions, they act like they are not even part of Bosnia and their education system pushes those beliefs on Children. They wish to unite with Serbia, and that is why I dislike tje government highly. But not the people, last week I was the source of the River Sanica when I encountered a Serbian family from Banja Luka, they had a kid with them who was about 12 I would say. We generally had a nice talk and I told them stories about the river and it's history, overall had a great time with them and wish there were more people like them
Does anyone deny that it ever happened?
There are some Serbs, mostly nationalists, who deny the genocide from ever happening, claiming they were fighting Islamic Extremists, but I also met some Serbs who actually do reckognize it and are aware of the attrocities and mentality of war. The Bosnian Serb president for example denies it ever happend. But Serbian Nationalists aren't the only ones who deny it, some people from the west and the world do, too
What was the emotional impact it had on you? What is your darkest memory of it?
I was very young back then and I couldn't believe that humans were actually capable of carrying out such genocides against others. It bost shocked and saddened me. The darkest memory I have of or was on one morning inspection, one man pushed off a soldier and ran, expecting to escape but was instantly shot in the head, fell head first down with his brains across the cement road. The soldiers warned us that this would happen if anyone attempted to escape. Witnessing a shooting is my darkest memory of it yet
How different are rep srpska and the bosnian region? So many negotiations and war just to have an autonomous region inside of the same country.
Today the two regions are drastically different. The Serbian region has a Serbian majority while the Bosnian region has mainly Bosniaks and Croats. When it comes to the Serbian region, its education system is drastically different, they are taught Serbian patriotism and skip the Bosnian war entirely from history lessons, erasing it from education entirely. In Geography class they are only taught about the Geography of Serbia and Republika Srpska, not the Bosnian region. Overall the difference in culture can also be seen, they have their own paramilitary unit and parliament, giving them lots of autonomy.
I've read horror stories about how a powerful hallucinogen called "BZ" was used on civilians by the serbs during their flight from srebrenica
have you heard anything about that?
That is an interesting story that I have never heard of actually. I will read that article later, seems really interesting. Thank you for linking it to me
Kako ide prijatelju! Haj na engeskom da ostali mogu razumjeti. How do you feel with the fact that the Srebrenica Genocide isn't mentioned at all while 9/11 is? I know my feelings regarding that but I wanna hear yours Exclaimer:I do not degrade the terorrist attack.On both incidents people were killed but the fact is that both of those incidents are terrible and one isn't mentioed at all while the other is mentioned every year. We should remember 7/11 like we remember 9/11.
One reason I think is the way this terrorist attack was carried out. We all got used to genocides and how they are performed that we don't see them as anything special anymore. But terrorists colliding planes into buildings and blowing them is already a whole new strategy of a terrorist attack, that is why it is so famous, because the way it was carried out with was unique. And not to mention the chain of events that have happend because of it makes it so menorable
Srebrenica was a huge tragedy, it shocked me very much and left a deep cut in my heart, it did so to every other Bosniak around me. The Dutch peacekeepers in my opinion were not that useless despite many people claiming that, they did try to call NATO for an airstrike on advancing Serbian forces which they declined. And I watched an interview of a former peacekeeper who himself said that they weren't able to protect the civillians, despite that being their job. So I have mixed feelings about them.
What was the build up to the war like? Did your town have many different ethnic groups before the war? What was it like afterwards? How are relations with Serbs nowadays?
How did people manage to move on with their lives after these traumatic experiences?
Oh yes my town was pretty diverse, majority was of Bosniaks, near our population number was Serbs and some Croats here and there, when the war started all neigbors who were once friends and hanged out, went to bars and grilled meat, were now enemies wishing each other death. After its liberation it was almost in ruins, most houses were burned down or destroyed, we had to clean up bodies and blood. After the war, the town is now completely 100% Bosniak. After the Bosnian army liberated it, the Serbian population fled northwards towards Banja Luka. Personally even I myself don't know how we managed to carry on, maybe it was just time.
I was skiing in Kransjka gora just a few months before it kicked off. There was a very strange mood and we were aware of the tensions and that war was imminent. We had some problems with some Norwegian drug addicts and I jokingly said. Lets kill them and bury the bodies, no one will notice after the war.
How true that statement was.
Lots of marches going on in the town..all dressed up in weird costumes made from hay. I remember my mother sending relief packages in shoe boxes and the Serbs marching in the UK saying we were supporting the wrong side.
Were you aware how the war was being portrayed in the west?
Generally I had almost no idea what was going on and how it was portrayed until after the war. During the war we had no electricity, meaning we couldn't watch the news of any nation. When we got to Bihać we almost never bought newspapers, to save up for food and water
Why did any of this happen in the first place? And why do people never discuss it now?
After Tito's death Nationalism started to grow and Yugoslavia started to become more "Serbianized" where Serbian influence was great, and when serbian president Slobodan Milošević called to end the autonomy of Kosovo and integrate them fully into the Socialist Republic of Serbia. And with a crippling inflation, a bad economy the nations started to proclaim independence, with many Serns living in Croatia and Serbia, they proclaimed their own republics and waged war against Croatia and Bosnia to integrate them fully into Serbia and create a Greater Serbian state.
What is your opinion on the current influx of refugees and migrants from other parts of the world to the Una-Sana Canton? In Sanica, is there a general awareness about the struggles of refugees and migrants in the cities of Bihac and Velika Kladusa and the violence they face from Croatian authorities during their transit attempts?
Oh definitely, knowledge about it is spread amongst the townsfolk, the elementary school even started a campaign where children donated food to them, everything from maccaronis to just simply salt. I have seen a passing through the town on their way towards Bihać. What I generally think of them? I would say I feel neutral at the moment, on one hand I ubderstand they are fleeing from war, poverty and governments. But the acts they commit like attacking random civillians, roberries etc. Is just unjustifiable. So I am neutral in this event
When this war was only starting, did your family consider sneaking through the border into any neighboring country to wait it out there? Was it possible to do and why you didn’t end up doing it?
Yes they were considering sneaking out, but because my father joined the army they didn't want to go out, my mother cared deeply for him and worried that he may get injured and we wouldn't be there for him. Not only that but the sheer pain of having to learn another language and possibly face racism and discrimination was also involved
Is there a documentary or film you'd recommended on this genocide? I'm criminally uninformed
I recommend the "Death of Yugoslavia" documentary by BBC (I think) it is really fascinating
Do you feel safe travelling to different parts of ex-yu, like Beograd or Zagreb? (I know that Serbs often feel unsafe going down to Dalmacija, especially after those Serbian men that were attacked in Split earlier this year.)
Do you or your family suffer from any diagnosed or (in your opinion) perhaps non-diagnosed ptsd or trauma? Have you or any of your family gone to therapists or psychologists? (I only ask because I know first hand how Balkan families can ignore these issues as a sign of “strength”. My dad definitely has some unresolved trauma from the war but refuses to acknowledge it, so I’m curious. Izvinjavam se ako je to nepristojno pitanje, stvarno.)
How do you feel about the Serbian community idolizing their war criminals? I’m thinking specifically of the recent Ražnatović wedding or the popularity of Ceca. (Ražnatović family itself is fascinating imo)
I feel relatively safe going to different cities of Ex Yugoslavia, since it wasn't like back then where everyone was at each other's throats. I've personally been to Belgrade after the war, and the people there are really friendly and nice.
No, my family does not suffer from any PTSD or any traumas, even nightmares. They openly and gladly talk about their experiences, haven't seen any signs of them having it.
I personally think that they should stop idolizing them, because this is the modern era and we need to move on with peace and friendship, those who keep ideolizing them and praising them as heroes are those who will cause another balkan war to happen
Were you ever in contact with the UN Peacekeeping force? If so, what were they like?
First time I saw the UN Peacekeepers was when we managed to get to Bihać. I generally had no contact with them at all, rarely seeing them actually since I was mostly in the apartment and almost never went outside. But when I did, I saw some of them a couple of times but never had any interactions
What are some survival supplies that would have been handy to have around when all of this happened to your family?
That is a tough one, the most handy equipment during that time would have been a weapon of any kind, mainly a gun. It has been known that sometimes serbian soldiers would break into houses at night and kidnap males, driving them to the Manjača Concentration Camp. If a Serb entered our home we would have been dead either way, shooting and killing as many as they come in would rid the world of more bastards before we died
Is the stereotype about people being mad all the time true? I'm from Bulgaria and it holds pretty well. Same applies to other slavic countries around or in vicinity to Bulgaria that i've went to.
I would say it depends on what you talk about with them. If you are on the topic of the Yugoslav wars, depending on the person things are gonna get beated fast
I could be wrong but Bosnia is a socialist republic yes? If so what is your opinion of Democratic Socialism in your country?
Bosnia is not a socialist republic, it was during Yugoslavia but not anymore. Today Bosnia is a Parliamentary Democracy with a ruling party that is Conservative
Mirza, what do you think about efforts to move towards forgiveness and reconciliation?
We have already achieved those steps, we forgave everything the serbian nationalists have done to cleanse us. We forgave...But shall never forget
My father served as a NATO peacekeeper in Bosnia during this time. Did you ever interact or see any peacekeepers? If so, what was your experience like?
I myself only rarely saw them when I went out, never ad any interactions with them. We were most of the time inside so I rarely saw them
Do you ever suffer from any form of PTSD or Survivors Guilt?
Sometimes I do look back on those memories and just get stuck with them, remembering everything I have witnessed, but it isn't that bad like PTSD soldiers get from Vietnam. It is a small shock but overall nothing really bad
This was an interesting read! I was pretty young while this was going on, and only really remember vague details from the news.
The company I work for has offices in Bosnia/Herzegovina, and the employees there are all awesome, hard working people. I have standing offers for grabbing a beer if I ever get the opportunity to visit, but I’m pretty ignorant about the country and culture.
My question is unrelated to the conflict, so forgive me if this isn’t the right forum.
How gay-friendly is the country? I would love to visit and meet everyone, but I’m unsure what the attitude would be outside of the work-environment if I’m open about being into dudes.
Hmmm, Bosnia is actually one of the most homophobic countries in the Balkans. My friends and family very much dislike gays and would murder someone if they found out they were gay. This summer there was a Pride parade in Sarajevo but that just stirred up more tensions and hate, so I recommend you not telling them that you are gay, if you yourself believe they are not Homophobic
Correct me if i'm wrong Mirza is a south asian cast am i right?
Mirza is a name of Persian orgin, meaning secretaty or prince. Many Persian kings had the title of "Mirza" which was a noble title
Thank you so much for doing this! I'm not sure of I'm too late to show and if you're still answering questions. Is there a good acess to psychiatric help in BiH today that helps people with PTSD? Would this be covered by the national health insurance? Are men wiling to talk to professionals about their traums or is there a sense of social stigma when seeking psychiatric help. Finally, this might be to personal, but do you suffer form PTSD and if so how much has it affeced you everyday life and relationship with people?
Psychiatric help in Bosnia is really low, almost no one goes to a psychiatrist. All Psychiatrich facilities in the region are private, and cost highly which many people are unable to afford. And no, thankfully I do nut suffer from PTSD, sometimes have some flashbacks or look back into those times, but they aren't bad or damaging like for the US Soldiers in Vietnam
Do you think diversity is a strength or a hindrance for a country?
That would depend in what way and how that diversity is used as to strengthen the nation or stabilize it
Are you related to Tahir Demirovic? I worked with him for several years.
EDIT: Just to clarify, I'm in the United States. Tahir and his wife came here shortly before the end of the war.
Nope, sorry never heard of him
Do you harbor any hatred for ethnic Serbs now?
Not at all, I do not hate Serbs entirely, and hate every single Serb out there. I do realize, and know that there are always good people and bad people from every ethnicity, Bosniaks are no exception
Hi Bosnian, Was this a war caused by religion? If so then what started it? I live in Denmark next to Sweden where a lot of refugees were temporarily living in old military complexes. You have my greatest sympathies to you and your family! War is a bad thin often fought in the name of religion!
Religion was actually one of the causes, but not the cause overall. One of the key causes for the war was the ethnically pure "Greater Serbia" that was made up by chetniks in WW2 as a main goal for Serbian Nationalism. It should spread from Serbia to the Croatian coast, that is why the Srpska government slaughtered non serbs throughout the war in pursuit of this goal
I work with a few Bosnians, one of them having lived through this. I'd like to talk about what happened , but I'm not sure if it would be insensitive to even bring it up. What are your thoughts?
Also, do you know anyone who lives in Hamtramck? I'm not sure about the statistics but we have a large population of Bosnians here!
I would not share someone's story without their permission. The people probably went through something similar as me and lost a loved one or more of them, war is a hard topic here in Bosnia and Bosniaks. Also no, sadly. I do not know anyone who lives in Hamtramck
Perhaps an unusual question but, given the setting/inspiration, how close do you feel This War of Mine is to replicating, in some tiny way that those of us who will never ever experience the harsh reality, the situation you were in, to put it in a way that we can at least begin to understand what you went through?
I never played This War of Mine before, but I have seen gameplay of it, I would say it is about 70% accurate on how it was back then. Some things were too exaggeretated here and there, like stealing fron others, and generally the looking for supplies like it is an apocalypse. The game does get the atmosphere right and most of it right, too.
I live in an area that many Bosnian refugees sought asylum. Do you know many people who left to go to the US? Was that a viable option for you? How difficult was it during those years to move to another country without retribution?
Personally I do not have any family members that moved to the US back then, but I do have some relatives in France, Germany, Slovenia and Austria who fled there during the war. I never really asked them how it was to cross borders, but apparently as I heard from my mother there were busses that carried students studying in universities to other countries, and same thing for other people, the details I do not know, unfortunently