Gastarbeider in Sarajevo

Na ruim twee jaar en veel verhalen in het Bosnisch uit Nederland, zoals beloofd op mijn afscheidsborrel, ook verhalen in het Nederlands uit Bosnië. Veel plezier. S.




That feeling when the ’92 hits you out of nowhere, quivering, jerking, flickering like a drop of water at the bottom of a pot on a stove, boiling within your breast, wants out up your nose, but cannot have its way during the day. You need to work, talk, smile, be with people...

That feeling when you realize that, at the same time while the grass lawn nearby the White House in Omarska was getting neatly filled with corpses, the blood in Keraterm still reddening on the asphalt, those day's ‘they’ were picking plums and corn, eating, drinking, singing, listening to Dragana, Ceca, sending kids to school, getting married... and for days they were digging, then stuffing down the pits, suffocating in the stench oh poor them, calling kids back into the house and closing up windows across Tomasica, and after dinner they were watching the RTRS daily newsreel and listening about yet another attack of the fundamentalists from Sarajevo on the 'defence positions' of the Serb Army up on Mount Igman. 11 September


I was sitting with Kacho, last day of Ramadan, as we waited on haircut at our barber’s in Kozarac, even though there is nothing to cut in the first place, but whatever.

And so, throwing across some words, I mentioned how I had been looking for grandma's bones and that I’d like to finally find her. It’s time to bury her, to let her rest in peace, that I wan't to pray fatiha for her, sob manly tears at the grave. He said, just as if we were discussing football, that they watched, he and his brothers, how after Kozarac fell, and so was being looted and torched for days, how Serbs at the end let the pigs downtown eat the remaining corpses.

For days I didn’t get proper sleep. That afternoon took the kids in front of the mosque, they rejoiced, got loads of candy to fill bags. But, the bags forgotten, Stelca went to the house to fetch them.

I read today at, in Tomasica possibly the remains of the 600 missing from Prijedor municipality as well. Drljaca knew well what he was talking about in 1993. And then I pondered today, while at the same time giving a lecture at a seminar in Bucharest, I still prefer Tomasica. I imagine myself caressing her skull at Sejkovaca just as Sedija would to her Idriz. Luckily, just as Marek, ... Slovak, took the floor, it got stuck in my throat and not a bit up or down. I’m projecting how many times did the trucks with corpses pass through there. How long were they digging? How badly did it stink? What were they talking about as they were throwing them in? Suppose they weren’t just keeping quiet... Sietske asked me what’s up, and I couldn’t remain quiet. Just told her. The girl blushed, staring at me with those large eyes, flashed and then said: “Go on get outside, what are you doing here?”

Nah I won’t, I said, let it... not kept my mouth shut.  

I was with Marek messing about who’s gonna win tonight. So I read this facebook status to him: Edin: “All set, if Slovaks spoil my evening I’ll use my connections to throw them out of eurozone” and my reaction: “I’ll burst into the Slovak’s room, tie him to the bed and play Kemal and Semsa to him all night long ;)”. The bloke went numb for a second

I’m off to watch the game, first the Romanians, and then Bosnia agains Slovakia.

I need some peace after the 'discussions' last night at Guardians of Omarska on Facebook.

And, I would love it if Bosnian team won, but...  

I keep thinking somehow, I’m still for Tomasica.

Bucharest, 10 September 2013





Silvestar, Silvo Saric, director of Prijedor post office, exhaled on a July afternoon in 1992 after several days of beating which caused his organs to fail and his skin to take on all of the rainbow colours and then the dark blue and the black, just before he let his soul go. Everything went quiet at that moment in the so-called “Maka’s room”. It seemed to me as if that afternoon, when the poor Silvo Saric finally came to a rest, I saw a human soul hovering above our heads for the first time. As if I even heard it. I’ve never said this to anyone until now. Not a soul. That I saw both the sound and the colour of human soul back then. Now I’m writing it down. I know, I remember remarkably well that, after with quiet obtuse sounds he finally exhaled, the entire room went numb. Without any agreement, the men stopped talking and everyone just knew: “another one’s gone...” Since then I know what tomb’s silence is. And all of them in the tomb alive, just one still warm, but the blood stopped running.

“That which is written with pen is made of a more lasting matter than all that is flesh in a man”, Krleza once said.

When they were carrying him out in a blanket (Mirso Softic and three more guys who, in spite of hunger, were strong enough to carry the body of a man weighing 100 kilos), I saw his hairy, manly arm hanging out of the blanket and a wristwatch on it. These four were breathing heavily, carrying between the rest of us this huge body. Now I don’t remember if anyone took off that wristwatch to give it to his sister in Zagreb or the wristwatch remained to be taken off by the petty souls of the guards and brought to Lamovita, Maricka or Radivojce before Silvo’s body gets ethnically cleansed – first carried into a truck, with the head left hanging over the side, and then into the pit (position of the head at that moment unknown). Also one Nedzad told me some things about Silvo about a year ago, as he was eating pie with lots of sour cream on the 4th floor of BBI centre in Sarajevo, and again I forgot a part of it... and Nedzad’s number got lost. (That’s why I’m writing, because everything gets forgotten...)

I remember how these four called for the ‘sergeant’ from the door to ask for permission to go out and carry the dead man outside, onto the lawn around the White House. The guards, normally, we had to call by some rank, although they had none. Sergeant seemed like the most acceptable option. There around the White House, our dead normally gathered round, either those killed outside, or these like Silvo or Teufik Denic later on, who’d gasp out their life right where they lay. So they’d come for their last meeting of the Omarska concentration camp prisoners, lie down each onto his spot one next to the other and quiet. Silvo, too, was carried out to that muster station for the dead. They were not being called for any longer, nor asked about anything, nor even beat up anymore, as it were. I can’t remember any of the guards from Omarska kicking a dead man. Needs be told.

There was, nevertheless, something humane in them as well.  

Speak no ill of the dead, as the old Latin phrase goes.

In fact, they’d sometimes call out also for the dead. Now I remember... This would happen when in one shift they’d kill a man, but wouldn’t make a good hand-over. They’d get drunk till the break of dawn listening to Ceca, tired, with bloody eyes, knives and uniforms, and they’d just wobble away home. Then those from the next shift would be looking for the very same camp prisoner who had already got beat up that morning, succumbed, laid for some time on the grass, got towed away and covered up by earth, so he could neither hear that they’re calling for him again, nor  could he holler back to them, since soft earth doesn’t conduct sound. Perhaps he’d hammer his hand onto the coffin, if he were in a coffin and if they didn’t break his clavicles, like they did to the maths professor Husein Crnkic. He used to walk around for days with his both arms hanging down his body until someone took pity on him and parked him onto the muster station. 

And in case of a bad hand-over, the guards in the next shift, angry ‘cause they can’t find their first reward for that day – the one they’re looking for, would take a few other camp prisoners out, beat them up, kill some of them, and then get drunk. And frequently, during a shift hand-over, they would again forget to tell about all those who met on the lawn around the White House.

And so the cycle of muster rolls without answer would go on for days, and all due to bad guard coordination. I read books about Auschwitz, so I claim on my own responsibility, that Germans did it a whole lot better. Germany is still Germany. I think it would be good to make an evaluation of the efficiency of concentration camps management, so that this ‘Omarska Cycle’ doesn’t happen again. Should someone opt for that, I’d be glad to share my experiences and fill out a questionnaire. 

I’ve been thinking, there’s also something perverse in all that when a man gets beat up outside for days, kicked with shoes on his body and head, with maces they took out of some hovels, like Krle the guard did (he told one female camp prisoner that the mace belonged to his grandfather and so he brought it with him as a working tool for physical education in Omarska), jumped all over while he screams, moans, sizzles, falling down losing consciousness out of pain, getting splashed with stale water to come round, and when he’s so covered in blood, blackened, broken, going back to his hangar, to the place where he laid. Returning, same as elephants commonly do (go to the place where they were born in order to die there as well), to lie down once again onto that narrow, dusty place of his on the floor of Omarska concentration camp, and only then to gasp out his last breath. Isn’t that perverse? It is to me. Like some ritual, they call for you, you go out, they keep beating you jointly for hours until they break your bones, massacre your face, rip off your organs, and you don’t fall down and don’t stay right there, although it’s easier for you to crawl to the lawn of the White House, but instead you return to ‘your spot’. And then, when you die, your brothers-in-misery carry you out like a package during the final act of the conveyor belt in some factory, factory of the dead. They deliver you, since now you can’t walk on your own. Just like when in a car factory the last worker just drives the car out on a huge parking next to the factory, leaving the keys in the car. My brother told me, he worked in a Mitsubishi factory in the Netherlands, that this is such a great feeling. And in the same way the camp prisoner, wrapped up in a blanket, goes back to those who treaded on you and beat the hell out of you, broke your bones, smashed your head, kicked you in the groin, before you wobbled away, and they stopped by the White House to knock the souls out of three more men. 

And, screw it all, there’s something truly awful in that silence of those carrying and in the obedience with which they are delivering the body to a meeting with the bodies on the lawn around the White House. And, just like with the cars and keys left in a lock, Silvo Saric also remained in a blanket. Nedzad felt sorry for the blanket, as he only lent it for Silvo to be carried out on, and they forgot to return it to him. Maybe they had too much respect for the corpse, and so instead of dumping it out of the blanket, they left it like that. And maybe they were in a hurry, so that they all don’t get crammed in the same blanket... I’ll ask Mirso Softic one day.

And there is, truth to be told, something else, very much ours, indigenous, insane, Bosnian, in that very act, when in the midst of genocide against Bosniaks in 1992, the ones – Bosnian Serbs (“Bosniaks of the eastern religion”, as Garasanin said in 1844) beat to death the other – Bosnian Croat, such as the deceased Silvo, and then the third ones, who are actually the most screwed party of all – the Bosniaks, carry him out onto the lawn, risking their own lives. Isn’t there? Now I’m interested to know, while I’m writing this, on 11,000 metres above Atlantic, with earphones on, listening to Touare from the Budha Bar compilation (same as one of the songs from the little Armin Muzaferija’s album, I listened to it days and nights in Sarajevo in 2010), what kind of a man was this Silvo Saric. I’ll ask Pavic (Mayor of Prijedor) one day, when I see him again. He must know, they were colleagues, I read somewhere.






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Best regards. Fikret Alic, Murat Tahirovic and Satko Mujagic



Witness to genocide


Living memory of Omarska concentration camp

In Bosanska Krupa downtown, within thirtyish metres air distance, as in no other town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a Catholic and an Orthodox church, and a mosque. The mosque and the Catholic church have been torn down to foundation in the latest war. The mosque had also been mined, and I can remember the minaret lying down on a pile of stones and debris like a divine spying glass split in half. Through it, one could see nothingness. A stygian space from whence came the filthy figures resembling human beings. Such fake people tore down these two houses of God, wanting to transform the town into a purely Orthodox place, which Bosanska Krupa has never been nor will be. The intact Orthodox Church built just before the war during the phase of the “awakening of national consciousnesses” in BiH testifies to the tolerance of the local people during and after the war. Although there are a small number of Orthodox believers in town, the Orthodox church dominates the town centre. But let’s not lie here: one of the fundamental reasons why it is in an intact condition is that we, the BiH Army, did not have heavy artillery, since someone would probably, in a fit of anger, pierce it at least a little bit, or would keep shooting at it until it turned into a pile of junk the same way the Catholic church and the town mosque did. The river was the water borderline and so the church building could go on spending its war days in tranquillity, no one could reach it to burn or mine it down. Now I contemplate it because I used to shoot at its apex that was protruding from behind the walls of the Old Town with bullets from my submachine gun, from the guard post near Kareli’s house. We were shooting at the copper cross, trying to bring it down with bullets, which was impossible since it was large and on a wide pedestal base. Shooting at the cross was a discipline that served for entertainment. Hence the Orthodox church survived. And lived to be a sacral building that lost its believers. It is difficult to say that the building is accountable, whereas it couldn’t be said so for the believers. All those who were among the followers of Radovan Karadzic quite certainly do not deserve to live in a town they systematically and painstakingly annihilated from April 1992 to November 1995. Thanks to the perseverance of the “courageous” Serb artillerymen, my town was at the very top of the champions league of destroyed towns in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I believe that for the four years of war we deserved at least a bronze cup for the third place won in the champions league of destroyed towns in BiH.

Today this town has very few contact points with the destroyed town that it was in September 1995 when we liberated it militarily. Today Bosanska Krupa is a wonderful west Bosnian small town on the rivers Una and Krusnica. Surrounded by green hammocks and hills, infrastructurally organized and almost fully restored. When somebody from mid-Bosnia comes to Krupa they have a feeling they came to Switzerland, as the streets are clean, the riverbanks are tidy, free of garbage, and bursting with green areas. Krupa, as a town, is predisposed to become a prosperous tourist place. That moment will maybe come, but for now Krupa is a town that lost its residents. A vast number of people left the town after the war and went abroad, from Canada to Australia. That is why Krupa lives at its best during summer when its citizens scattered worldwide are returning to their town. 

In Bosanska Krupa downtown, within thirtyish metres air distance, as in no other town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is a Catholic and an Orthodox church, and a mosque. There I sat with Satko Mujagic from Kozarac who survived the concentration camp Omarska and Manjaca in the age of twenty. Today he lives in the Netherlands, but comes often to Sarajevo and Kozarac, as he is an activist who has been dealing tirelessly for years with the commemorations of the sufferings of concentration camp prisoners in Omarska, as well as fighting that these sufferings are never forgotten, and honourably commemorated with a memorial inside the compound of the present ArcelorMittal mine. In the matter of the few minutes we spent over coffee I realized just how strong and vivid the memory of his stay in Omarska is. There was his uncle sitting with us. The talk started itself and I turned all ears. Satko was saying how difficult it was to go to toilet, which was regularly dirty and blocked with faeces, since thousands of people poured in there daily. In order to reach the toilet, you first had to get permission from the guards. The problem would occur if on the way to toilet you came across a guard, or if a guard discovered you in one of the toilet stalls. Then beating would ensue with a baton. Hits on the kidneys and head. One arm you use to protect your head, and then the kidneys. The guard is beating you until he gets tired. Or until you lose consciousness. Satko was telling me how at one moment he told the guard several times: “I can’t take it any more.” Because if you lose consciousness then death isn’t so far either. The point is you have to think fast, and any talk with the guards must be such that will suit them. Or how you must have quite a fat connection in order to have someone in the concentration camp hierarchy bribed so your family can send you a simplest meat sandwich.
The torturers are nowadays freely walking around Prijedor. Former concentration camp prisoners are also walking the same town. A stalemate in which the concentration camp prisoner can still feel as if being in some kind of concentration camp. A fascinating story about the concentration camp told to me as if it happened yesterday. During his talk, Satko would imitate the guards, like an actor saying their words. We were sitting surrounded by three houses of worship. Under the tree crowns and the shining weeping willow leaves. We need to fight to the last breath and at any price for the memory of events like these that are evocative of fantasy. And that memory needs to be written down for future generations. Faruk Sehic


'Calling the ghosts" during the London Olympics




It seems that all efforts, thus far at least, to influence the conscience of the King of Steel Lakshmi Mittal in order to commemorate the place of suffering in Omarska have been to no avail. The conscience of the authorities in Prijedor is even less likely to get awakened. Former concentration camp prisoners and their families are not giving up just yet. The most recent action took place in London where the tower monument, in which Mittal has invested almost 20 million pounds, earned in Bosnia as well, was declared a “memorial in exile”. This year, 20 years after the establishment and dissolution of the concentration camp, on the 6th of August, they are expecting as many people as possible in Omarska in order to exert pressure, also in this way, on all those who are trying to prevent them from commemorating.

 ArcelloMittal Orbit/Omarska Concentration Camp



Can the London Olympics be open if the Prijedor’s concentration death camps are closed for the Krajina survivors?!


A colossal steel sculpture, the largest one in Great Britain, called ArcelorMittal Orbit, is most probably made also out of steel from Bosnia and Herzegovina. And particularly from the mines located in the vicinity of Prijedor in which, it is believed, there are still lying the bones of those killed in the concentration camps, or even the ores processed in the factories which until recently served as torture-grounds and scaffolds. The company owners, who are proud that the steel for the sculpture was brought from all parts of the world in which they have their branch offices, say that there is no steel from Bosnia incorporated in the Orbit. Their employees in Prijedor claim otherwise.

Those who survived the tortures in Omarska, and who have been requesting ArcelorMittal for years now to commemorate the locations of suffering, say that they will, until this has been done, consider the sculpture in London which celebrates the Olympic Games as their memorial in exile.


Parts of the facility of the mine Ljubija in the vicinity of Prijedor served, from the 25th May to 22nd August 1992, as concentration camps which had been established by the forces controlled by Radovan Karadžić. Nowadays he is on trial in The Hague also for this, among other. The prosecution there has evidence that genocide has been committed in this part of Bosnia as well. The Hague Tribunal is, according to a decision made last week, negating such characterisation for the time being, because of which the prosecutors have filed an appeal. The prosecution is proving that more than 3.300 people were killed in the matter of just several months in the vicinity of Prijedor, for the most part in the concentration camps formed in the mines compound. Until this day 1.905 persons have been identified, and 1.273 are being searched for. It is believed that the bodies of the killed were thrown into the mining pits in order to cover the traces of the crime.

In 2004, company ArcelorMittal took over 51% of the ownership over the complex of mines, including Omarska, the location where the largest concentration camp used to be. Upon ownership takeover, the surviving concentration camp prisoners made contact with the Mittal representatives, introduced them to the bloody history of the mines, and asked that the places of suffering be saved, and that a memorial to those killed be built and they be allowed to pay visits to those places. None of the requests has been entirely fulfilled, although plenty was promised. Only in this year, the access to Omarska was precluded several times, in spite of the promise given by the Mittal owners to the concentration camp prisoners and their families in the letter that was also addressed to Slobodna Bosna. 

That is why a group of associations of concentration camp prisoners, together with human rights activists from Great Britain and Serbia, decided to initiate this year, marking 20 years from the establishment and dissolution of the concentration camps, a series of actions in order to alarm the public and try and exert pressure on the authorities in Prijedor and on the ArcelorMittal owners, to allow them to commemorate. However, so far, very little has been accomplished in Prijedor itself.  


Therefore the associations, among which also the Guardians of Omarska that was initiated by Satko Mujagić, decided to launch an action called “Memorial in Exile”.

On Monday, the 2nd of July, in London, a group of activists held a public conference in order to draw the attention to the absurdity connecting them to the Orbit, a controversial monument that needs to remind all those who come to the Olympic city about the glory of the Olympics. The former concentration camp prisoners are stressing that neither the Londoners, the Mayor, nor the Olympic Committee have anything to do with the events of 1992 in Bosnia, or with the current Mittal’s policy towards the survivors and their families, and are nonetheless inviting them to distance themselves from all that.

(Milica Tomic from "4 faces of Omarska", Belgrade during the pressconference in London)

“As far as I am concerned, this monument to the Olympic spirit, as it is being described, is a monument to shame”, Satko says. “We are certain that British people are not even aware of the fact that there is a possibility that their newest landmark may have human bones built in it. We have come here to ask the British to help us preserve memories of those who cannot be here today because they did not survive the horrors of Omarska. By constructing the Orbit in London, with the ore from Omarska in which there may be human bones as well, ArcelorMittal casts a bloody shadow on the city of London, the United Kingdom and the Olympic Games. We are inviting Mittal to meet with us urgently in order to solve this issue before the start of the Olympic Games, because it is not our goal, and we would be very sorry if, the arrogance and irresponsibility of one company should stain the Olympic spirit and the companionship of sportsmen and sportswomen from around the world.

Right before the Prijedor folks addressed the public, statement had been issued also by the company ArcelorMittal, negating that part of the steel incorporated in the sculpture comes from Bosnia as well. Coldly, ArcelorMittal has been repeating as mantra how they’re willing to take part in the commemoration of the place of sufferings “only if the local community should reach an agreement”. “Over the last eight years in Bosnia and Herzegovina we have seen that it is a country facing a process of reconciliation. We understand that, since we are running the mine, various interest groups turn to us seeking assistance in resolution of numerous challenges in that process, but such a sensitive issue is not for ArcelorMittal to solve”, the statement reads.

Furthermore, they are recalling how much they have invested in BiH over years, and how many people are working for them, but they are also claiming again that they cannot build a memorial without permission from the local authorities, who will not, as it is already clear to everyone, give that permission because they are still not ready to admit to the crimes committed in this town.

Opposite their claims that the material from Bosnia was not built into the Orbit stand the words of professor Eyal Weizman from the Goldsmiths University of London, who says that on the 14th of April 2012 Mladen Jelača, Director of ArcelorMittal Prijedor, confirmed to him that the iron ore from the Omarska Mine was used in the construction of the Orbit.


Susan Schuppli, also a professor at the Goldsmiths Architecture Research Centre, bespoke in the conference how one of the greatest steel manufacturers in the world would have to use his influence, which undoubtedly exists, “and overcome the local policy of negating, and actively participate in the healing of the community from which it is exploiting part of their wealth. Yet still, they are insisting that they are not taking any side. To have no side in the area where injustice takes place is not a neutrality but some taking of a political position”, said Schuppli.

In the conference, RezaK Hukanović, also a former concentration camp prisoner, took the floor as well. “I know a boy who was watching as his father’s both arms were being broken, ribs fractured, teeth kicked out, skull crushed... That boy is my son”, said Rezak, inviting the public not to disregard the lessons from Bosnia.

(Susan Schuppli, Rezak Hukanovic and Satko Mujagic)

Actions of Prijedor folks do not end. They are hoping that this year on the commemoration day, in Omarska but also in Keraterm and Trnopolje, as large as possible number of people will be gathering in order to pay respect to those who have been killed, to remember the sufferings of those who have survived, but also to once again say out loud that they want to remember. The official commemoration has been announced for the 6th of August, a day on which 20 years ago British journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshal managed to enter the concentration camps and take pictures of the emaciated detainees and send reports which have changed the way in which the international community was until then viewing the war in BiH.


(Penny Marshall on 5th August 1992, camp Trnopolje)


Blood red tower of Babylon

The construction of a memorial which will remain in London as a remembrance of the Olympics is Mayor Boris Johnson’s idea. He proposed that idea of his on the occasion of a brief meeting with Lakshmi Mittal, owner of the ArcelorMittal company, who immediately consented as they say. A competition was announced in which the idea of Anish Kapoor and Cecil Balmond was selected. The sculpture was made out of steel painted in blood red colour. The artists say that at the basis of their idea was the construction of the tower of Babylon, “the sense that we’re building something unachievable... a monument which has something mythical in itself”. They were the ones who named it Orbit, explaining that it symbolizes a continual journey, a creative display of “exceptional physical and emotional efforts” the Olympic athletes are investing in so they could be ever better.

The sculpture is 115 metres tall and located in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic stadium. The construction has cost around 20 million pounds, and Mittal has donated 16 million. Approximately 1.400 tons of metal has been used.

Mittal, who as they say agreed to Johnson’s idea within a matter of 45 seconds, says he was driven by the desire to contribute to London having something like a keepsake of the Olympics. “I’ve lived in London since 1997 and I think this is a splendid city. This project is an exceptional opportunity to build something really spectacular in London, for the Olympic Games, and something that will forever serve as reminder of that event.”


There’s no way of stopping us

Satko Mujagić is determined to continue the campaign for commemoration of the place of sufferings of the killed people of Prijedor and of the suffering of those who have survived the concentration camps. Together with several other associations from Prijedor, this year Satko has addressed a series of letters to the world officials inviting them to come to Omarska on the 6th of August marking the 20th anniversary of the start of the dissolution of this concentration camp.

Satko was 20 when he was, together with his father, brought to Omarska. After the western media managed to get to the concentration camp and started sending out reports on the horrors they’ve seen, the media from Pale tried to respond and themselves visited the places of imprisonment and recorded conversations with some of the concentration camp prisoners asking them to negate the crimes. Among them also was Satko. Today he says that he doesn’t know the name of the “journalist” who came to Omarska on the 9th of August 1992 and recorded his statement.

“That was the footage of the RTRS which they presumably sent to the Eurovision. This ‘journalist’ came, told me to say it was not a concentration camp, that he would be asking questions in our language and I should be responding in English”, Satko recalls. The footage, which was broadcast also in the Great Britain, was brought to him in 1994 by one foreign journalist.


Why Mittal don’t you come to lead us to the White House?

From the public conference held in London, the former concentration camp prisoners have addressed ArcelorMittal with four demands:

·        To be granted undisturbed access to Omarska to all buildings throughout the year;

·        To immediately break off with the shameful present policy and build a memorial as promised;

·        To build a new complex and discontinue the use of the existing one which was turned into a concentration camp during the war;

·        That ArcelorMittal and the City of London build at the foot of the Orbit a smaller edifice which would serve as a replica of the White House, the place in which the concentration camp prisoners in Omarska were being tortured and killed, in order to pay respect in this way to those whose bones may have been melted in the steel used for the construction of the sculpture.

“Until this is fulfilled, we shall be free to consider the London’s Orbit our memorial in exile”, bespoke they once again inviting Lakshmi Mittal to join them in the commemoration on the 6th of August.

(translated from Bosnian by Mirsela Kunalic)


Thank you, Richard

Dear Satko,

I just wanted to write to you to thank you especially for your time on Wednesday, and for pushing us to get into the camp.

There is not much to say about that experience, apart from that, for many of us, it was one of the most important moments in our lives.

We will not forget it quickly, nor will we forget how difficult it must be for you, and for Mirsad and Sudbin, to relive these experiences, too see it all again.

We are all deeply grateful.

Best wishes,

Richard S. A. Newell

P.s thanks for joining us for a drink later too... Hopefully, we'll meet again soon.

Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone on O2


Arcelor Mittal Orbit Casts a Shadow of Shame over London


The following statement is being presented on behalf of the group Guardians of Omarska, founded on April 4 2012 and to be registered soon as an Association, as well as on behalf of the Association 'Survivors and witnesses of genocide' from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and supported by the Foundation of the former camp prisoners of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Netherlands. I hope you will understand that some remarks will refer to myself as a former camp prisoner of the concentration camps Omarska and Manjaca. 

* Bosnia was a scene of the bloodiest conflict in Europe since the WWII.  In that conflict a campaign of extermination was organized by the Bosnian Serb Army in the Prijedor area in which they conducted mass executions, rapes, concentration camps were opened, and other war crimes.  In one word: GENOCIDE

The final outcome was 3173 civilians were killed, including 102 children from Prijedor and 256 women, 31 000 were detained in death camps, and eventually some 53,000 expelled; all religious, cultural and economic objects of Bosniacs and Croats in the Prijedor municipality were destroyed. 

On the 20th anniversary of suffering, Prijedor authorities have banned commemorations in any public space in the city. In addition now, we have a big corporation, ArcelorMittal, the biggest steel producer in the world who are blocking access to the former concentration camp in Omarska. Namely, Mittal now owns 51% of what used to be the most notorious death camp in the Bosnian war.

Our attempts to negotiate some kind of a solution with Mittal have started in 2004. After the initial letter, sent in November 2004 to Mr. Lakshmi Mittal, here in London, together with the first book written about Omarska, '10th circle of hell' of the author Rezak Hukanovic, here present, and the letter to Mr. Roeland Baan, former CEO of Mittal Steel for Europe in Rotterdam, we were invited for a meeting with Mr. Baan on January 14 2005. I and Mr. Sten Fierant, here present, were promised during this constructive meeting the following:

1) The survivors, family members of those murdered in the camp Omarska in 1992, but also any other visitors will be allowed to visit the former camp on 24 May and 6 August, as chosen commemoration days. Furthermore the visit on other days will be allowed upon request.

2) The notorious White House, the building were all inmates were tortured and very often leading to their death will be preserved3) The proposal to make a Memorial/Museum in the White House was taken to consideration and would be discussed with the HQ in London

* In April 2005, Mr. Baan had a phone call with me and explained that Mittal Steel has been in touch with Mr. Donald reeves and Peter Pelz form the organization Soul of Europe which has been invited to work on this 3rd proposal. After a positive answer from our side, Soul of Europe started already in May 2005 with initial meetings with local NGOs and Omarska survivors in Prijedor municipality. 

* This process or we could say a project for which, according to my information, Soul of Europe received the sum of 100.000 pounds, resulted in a press conference in Banja Luka in Bosnia and |Herzegovina on December 1st 2005. During this conference a representative of Mittal Steel, Mr. Will Smith announced that Mittal would build and finance a Memorial in and around the White House. 

* However, after the strong resistance from the side of local government of Prijedor Municipality and due to internal discussion about the way how the Soul of Europe dealt with this process, Mittal Steel had frozen the implementation of the erection of the Memorial on February 20 2006. 

* Till today, despite several meetings with various representatives of the company in Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Kozarac and Prijedor, as well as phone calls, e-mails and letters, ArcelorMittal has done nothing. 

* Even worse, we found out that, without any consultation, the |White House has been painted wiping out the blood traces. Even an old chair, used for torture disappeared. This means that the first promise of Mittal has been broken. Here we would like to stress that form legal point of view the company purposely destroyed evidence of war crimes.

This year, they denied access to the campgrounds and buildings to students from Munich, representatives of the Goldsmiths University London, Group Four Faces of Omarska from Belgrade, and local NGOs who wanted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of genocide in the region. 

* At the same time, instead of building the Memorial in Omarska, one of the most notorious camps after the II World War, ArcelorMittal invested its money to build a monument in London for the Olympic games. 

* As far as I am concerned This Monument to the Olympic spirit is really the Orbit of shame. We are certain that British people are not aware of the fact that their newest landmark may have somebodies bones built in it. Families and the survivors of the Omarska Camp are appalled at Mittal’s policies and behavior. There are still more than 1000 people missing in Prijedor, of which many Omarska prisoners. There are indications that many corpses have been left inside the pit of the mine.

* This big Orbit monument makes a dark shadow over London, at least this is how many survivors and others think of it.

* Although the city of London and Olympic committee have nothing to do with 1992 events nor the current policy of Mittal towards us as a survivors and the negligence of the history of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Europe, we also invite the wider community to take distance form the Mittal approach so far.

1) We ask that ArcelorMitall allows full access to the site of former Omarska camp, to all buildings.

 2) We expect and urge Arcelor Mittal to immediately stop this shameful policy and finally build the  memorial in Omarska as previously promissed.

3) We do not expect or ask the cessation of production but we do ask that a new mine complex is built to exploit the iron ore instead of the one which was used as a concentration camp and could be considered a mass grave. Until then, we will be free to consider the London Orbit our memorial in exile.

4) We appeal to Arcelor Mittal and the city of London to make a real copy of the White House beneath the current Orbit Monument to commemorate those whose bones may be melted in Orbit.

Some time ago we invited Mr. Lakshmi Mittal himself for a meeting to solve out this issue. I use this opportunity to repeat this invitation and ask publicly for a meeting with the representatives of the survivors of the camp. I also invite Mr. Mittal, the Mayor of London, and the delegation of British government to pay tribute to the victims and join us on 6 August this year for the 20th commemoration day of the beginning of closure of the concentration camp Omarska. 

In the end, let me remind you that it was the British journalists Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams who discovered these concentration camps and saved many, many lives including mine. We have come here to ask the British people to help us preserve the memory of those who cannot be here today because they did not survive the horrors of Omarska. Thank you

Satko Mujagic, during the press conference London 2 July 2012

"The Last Phase of Genocide is Denial"

by: Tanja Zubčević-Alečković

"I entered Omarska for the first time after the war on May 24 2004 and vowed that I will never do that again because I was in shock for days, mentally crushed. Fortunately, I went again at the urging of Ed Vulliamy and Nerma Jelacic, that same year on August 6. After many visits, just last year on 6 August 2011 I went into Omarska and got out of it being the same. I do not know how it will be in the future, but this struggle for truth, justice, recognition, acceptance of 'events', as many Serbs from Prijedor call it today, somehow strengthened me."

Twenty years ago the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina started, immediately after the declaration of independence on March 1, 1992, and membership in the United Nations on 22nd March 1992. At the beginning of the aggression camps were established serving a planned ethnic cleansing. One of the most notorious was the Omarska Camp, i.e Iron Ore Mine complex of Omarska, in the Prijedor municipality.

Today, twenty years after the closure of the camp, there is nothing that marks the place where so many civilans were killed. Today, the mine complex is owned by Arcelor Mittal, whose owners decided back in 2005 (1st December 2005 in Banja Luka) to build and finance the construction of the memorial at the site of the former camp. That decision was withdrawn with the excuse that Mittal does not want to interfere in the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

With our interlocutor, Satko Mujagic, former inmate of Omarska and Manjaca, I talked about the camps, Ratko Mladic, the gap between people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, reconciliation and the struggle to build a memorial at Omarska.

Satko, at the very beginning I want to thank you for this interview. Twenty years have passed. The camps are closed, the war has passed. What does it feel like for you, a former inmate,  knowing that Ratko Mladic, one of the most responsible for the bloodshed in Bosnia, has been brought to justice ?

Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words for the BH Magazine. I am satisfied and happy. True, Mladic was extradited so late that I wondered last year whether he would survive until the end of the process. On May 16, this year, I saw him in the Hague courtroom, and I hope he will. He even smiled and waved at me, and I at him. I hope that Radovan Karadzic will also live to see the end of the process. Both for justice and for truth, but also for the final verdicts of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I do not need the Hague court to tell me that the genocide took place, however, many seem to need it. And, I am convinced that these processes, however they end, will lead to the awakening of consciousness of Serbs but also the public at large. I always emphasize: the Serbs as a people are not collectively guilty for genocide. Some have even complained during the war. Jovo Radocaj from Ljubija was killed in the Keraterm camp. Mirko Amidzic from Kozarac, was brought to the Omarska camp with his neighbors from Kozarac. He did not live to see the end of the war. Gojko Beric, speaking in the besieged Sarajevo, paraphrased a statement of Adam Mochnik, who said: "Patriotism is measured by the amount of shame one feels for the crimes committed by his own people," and concluded: "I am now the greatest among the Serbs!" In Sarajevo, The First Brigade mostly composed of Serbs, Jovo Divjak left the Yugoslav National Army and joined the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And there are more examples, also in Prijedor and Kozarac. I do not want forget Srdjan Aleksic from Trebinje. Therefore, not all Serbs are guilty of genocide. But, there are collectively responsible to wash off this stain off of the whole nation. Just as the Germans did after 1945, as well as Croats when speaking of the issue of genocide committed against Serbs, Jews and others during the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) in the II World War. And so, Mladic's arrest is important. The first results are already visible from weak response to support the protests for Mladic in Banja Luka. Well, if I may say, after everything I went through in Kozarac, Omarska and Manjaca, I do not hate Serbs, not all are to blame, and I also am ashamed of the Ustasha atrocities of the World War II, because there were Bosniaks among those who committed them, I am ashamed of the Celebici camp and Silos (where the Serbs were detained), so why don't those who have nothing to do with crimes and genocide committed against Bosniaks and do not support them say the same for the genocide committed in the name of the Republic of Srpska.

I'm also proud of the WWII heroes Ahmet Melkic from Kozarac and Esad Midžić. I am proud of my grandfather Smail who was at the beginning of that war (World War II) Dr. Mladen Stojanovic's  connection with partizans in Prijedor. His brother Adem, also from Kozarac, was wounded as a Partisan soldier. My mother's aunt Sena Kovacevic, was a counter aganet at the Gestapo in Prijedor, she left the madrasa and joined the Tito-movement because of the genocide against the Serbs. Yugoslav Army General, Costa Nadj wrote about this in his memoirs. Her husband, Hasaga Sadikovic, son of an imam from Bosanski Novi, was a fighter and a Lieutenant at war's end. But none is talking about these people in Prijedor any longer. Their son, Dr med Esad Sadikovic was killed on the night of the August 5th, the same day, following Ed Vulliamy's and Penny Marshall's discovery of the Omarska and Trnopolje Camps, Omarska began to dissolve. He was killed over the pit in Hrastova Glavica with another 123 detainees from the Keraterm and Omarska camps. I heard that the killer asked for a chair because he was tired from standing and shooting… Today, in the RS the mark May 9 as the Day of the victory against fascism as if the Serbs were the only ones who fought against the Nazis. Not to mention that last year the Chetnik Ravna Gora Movement received a permit for the public gathering in Prijedor, although everyone knows that Draza Mihajlovic and the Chetniks killed thousands of civilians in Foca and Eastern Bosnia, and they even collaborated with Germans and the Ustashe in the battle of Neretva. Remeberance in Prijedor has literally been turned into a circus. And what is worse,  younger generations are continuously poisoned and therefore they live in parallel worlds.

Cathartic process will be long one, and political leaders and the media will play a crucial role in it. Unfortunately, there is no political will for that. An example is a ban on remembering genocide in Prijedor. An example is the reaction of Mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic , from yesterday, in which among other things he said: "We no longer want to argue with you, and when the truth becomes a bench mark of your values I am always ready to talk. And it bothers you that I am calling out individuals? You should know that I named the Prime Minister when I thought that his work is harmful to Prijedor, so I will continue to designate by name those whose actions are damaging to Prijedor. "
This reminded me of the accusations printed in Kozarski Vjesnik (Prijedor newspaper) of 1992. At the time, articles were written with false accusations about the prominent citizens of Prijedor, such as Dr med Željko Sikora (of Czech origine). After one such article, Sikora was killed in the Keraterm camp. I would tell Pavic that if he needs a list, he should begin with 5000 registered former inmates in Prijedor and Kozarac, with members of other six NGOs in the Committee for the remembrance of genocide in Prijedor, and then 6200 members of the group 'Guardians of Omarska.' Then follow the families of those killed, Women in Black and 4 Faces of Omarska from Belgrade, Serba, then students from the Goldsmiths University in London, students from the Aegis Trust London, students from Munich and Regensburg, citizens of Prijedor, among which some Serbs who have had enough of the North Korea type politics in Prijedor, RS, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ten days ago, we were accused by Pavic that we are destroying Prijedor. I said  to him that Prijedor was destroyed in 1992. What we are doing today is an attempt to reconnect everything that was torn in 1992.

However, we cannot bring back the dead and that remains a burden on everyone who raised their hand against neighbors, civilians, women and even children.


The camps, on the territory of BiH, were used for the purpose of ethnic cleansing. The most notorious of them is the Omarska Camp. By now, many surviving detainees visited the former camp site. How does it feel to return to the place of the former camp and how many people were killed in that camp?

We do not know the exact number of those killed yet. In any case, about 460 were killed in the Omarska Camp, according to the data from the Prijedor Association Izvor. However, apparently there may be between 700 and 1000 for only three months of Omarska camp's existence. Imagine if Omarska lasted four years, as Jasenovac did… I first visited Omarska after the war, on May 24, 2004 and vowed never to return again because I was in shock for days, mentally crushed. Fortunately, I went again at the urging of Ed Vulliamy and Nerma Jelacic, the same year on August 6. After many visits, just last year, on August  6, 2011  I went to Omarska and got out of it feeling the same. I do not know how it will be in the future, but I this struggle for truth, justice, recognition, acceptance of 'events', as many Serbs in Prijedor call it today, somehow strengthened me.

Hamdija Draganovic, my friend and the Omarska Camp detainee  told me two days ago that he would not visit Omarska until there is a memorial marking crimes committed there in 1992. And there are many like him ...


The war in Bosnia was bloody, many have lost their lives, many were expelled from their homes. How big is the gap between ethnic groups in Bosnia and is it insurmountable?

The gap is, unfortunately, huge but not insurmountable. I hated the Serbs ever since 1992 and vowed to "never enter their house, never shake hands, never have coffee with a Serb." In 1998, I met Goran from Banja Luka, and shortly thereafter, after many phone calls, went to his house. I took a bottle of whiskey with me. Never go empty-handed to somebodies house for the first time... Three times I stopped on my way there and wondered: "Where are you going? Why are you going there? They are all the same ...?" At the entrance, Goran smiled at me, as if we knew each other all our lives, in the kitchen he opened the plum brandy from Krajina. While cutting the cold meat, he stressed, with a laugh, but seriously: "There is no pork." I brought him a tape with a documentary film about the suffering of Kozarac, and my pictures from the Omarska camp. When he switched on the video, he called his eight year old son to watch. I said: "No, Goran, he is too young for this," and he replied: "Let go, Satko, he had already seen your Kozarac and knows who burned it down. He should see it again and now with you." And, we are still friends to this day.  So that visit, thank God, opened my eyes. Since those days, as well as before the war, I do not look at what nationality someone is but at a person's character and actions. I know a lot of Bosniaks who are doing a lot of harm to us, and also know Serbs from Belgrade, but also from Prijedor, who are trying to do something to rebuild bridges.

I would like to mention Milica Tomic and her group "4 faces of Omarska" who visited Omarska in 2010. In Belgrade and Banja Luka, they organized public debates, and her group has received an award for the fight against discrimination in 2011. I call, Milica, Vlado, Mirjana, Srdjan, Nenad, Dejan, Jovanka, Marija, Branimir, "Heralds of Spring." Women in Black and Sonja Biserko, I guess I need not mention. On May 09, 2011 Stasa Zajovic from Women in Black and Milica Tomic were the first Serb women who spoke at Omarska loudly and clearly about what they think about the atrocities and genocide in Prijedor and Bosnia and Herzegovina. This needs to be known. These public speeches will soon (maybe tomorrow) be available on youtube. These people must be given a chance to raise awareness of others. Let's not underestimate the power of Milosevic, Cosic, Karadzic propaganda… Even yesterday, Pavic was calling an aggression and genocide a civil war, while the character of war has long since been established, back in 1997 in the Tadic case, by the Hague Tribunal. Millions of Serbs were convinced that the mujahideen were attacking 'centuries-old Serbian homes', that at Kozarac, 'bastion of Islam in the Krajina', they were defending their homeland etc. While the mosques in Kozarac had only beed visited by about 10%, today it is, perhaps, something more.

To conclude, today with the struggle for the memorial centers in Prijedor camps, Omarska, Keraterm, Trnopolje, struggle to remove the monuments of Serbian fighters in Trnopolje, the struggle for marking genocide in Prijedor (even that name is forbidden there - the last stage of genocide is denial), we build a bridge of peace over the river of evil.

Because when the Serbs understand what happened, there will be more Milicas and Stasas, and when Bosniaks and Croats understand that all Serbs are not the same, understanding and tolerance will resurface again, and with that to the real co-existence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And make no mistake, only as such and only then can we enter European Union. The other day I was in Poland. That country and its people literally blossomed in 20 years. Just in the 1990s Poles were selling tools at xafss across Bosnia to pay for their holidays on the coast. While we, "all too smart and full of nationalism", still wallow in the mud and point fingers at each other ...

The gap is, therefore, enormous, but the bridge is under construction.

We often hear stories of reconciliation and co-existence. Have you, during the visit to BiH, noticed the success of this plan?

Of course, I did. Especially in urban areas, but not only there. I renewed my friendship with Nikolina and Mladen. I do not think I'm alone in doing these things. And I made many other friends, I met Milena, Nenad, Milica, the people from whom I learned a lot and began to think the way they think. I follow Blaz Stevović and his sharp analysis, Teofil Pancic, Gojko Beric ... There is also Nino Maricic, a former photographer of the Dani Magazine, who went to Omarska after the war probably more times than thousands of those from Prijedor and Kozarac. And his great pictures with texts of Eldin Hadžović say more than 'patriotic' chants (of individuals) from diaspora of revenge and hatred.
Group: "Guardians of Omarska" has recently been opened on Facebook and has over 6200 members. Tell us more about this group.

The group "Guardians of the Omarska" was set up on April 4, 2012 by Elmina Kulašić, Alison Sluiter and me. The reason was the refusal of entry to the former Omarska Camp to students from Munich, in March 2012. And the denial of the Camp's existance by a famous Dutch 'filmmaker' whose name  I do not want to mention out of contempt. Then, in April 2012, there was a rejection of access to Omarska to students from the Goldsmiths University of London, the group "Memorial" and the "4 faces of Omarska" from Belgrade. Look at the situation now. The British company, Arcelor Mittal, which at a meeting that took place on January 14, 2005 in Rotterdam, among other things, promised to always secure access to the former camp, has now decided to side with local Serb authorities, the Mayor and the Director of Mittal Jelaca and on April 14 refuses access to Omarska to Serbs from Belgrade and Prof. Weizmann with students from London ... In football that is called auto goal. 

But, it is interesting that I warned them, that is, a week earlier I sent an mail to Mittal and wrote that these people must be allowed in, and if they do not allow access the consequences would be incalculable for the firm. However, they responded negatively to four written requests. The largest steel producer in the world! Their public relations unit is equal to the PR of the average local community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. So today, nearly a month later, not only does the whole world know about this story, but this process is unstoppable. Not only was the British public alerted to this, and they still will be, because on December 1, 2005 in Banja Luka  Mittal  promised to build a memorial in Omarska, then stopped, and now it is building a monument to the London Olympics, the London Orbit, in which it invested 16 million pounds.

Today, Mladic is in the news, and particularly the prohibition of the remembrance of genocide in Prijedor by the municipal authorities in Prijedor. Eight non-governmental organizations wanted to commemorate the genocide in Prijedor, however, the RS police, that same Police whose members killed 250 citizens of Prijedor on Vlasic on 21 August 1992, 'guarded' prisoners at Omarska, decided that the genocide must not be marked.

Can you imagine, the prosecutor, lawyer, Groom, based on the facts in the process against Mladic, is allowed to say GENOCIDE IN PRIJEDOR!, as well as in other municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and I or the other surviving inmates are not allowed!? That is a flagrant violation of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Annex 7 of Dayton) and the European Convention on Human Rights. Here, I would like to point out what to me is a surprising silence of the politicians in Sarajevo. The other day, American congressmen (Chris Smith) and a US senator raised their voices. On May 27, on a commemoration of genocide that took place in Prijedor, in Amsterdam, Ms. Emine Bozkurt, a member of the European Parliament from the Netherlands, clearly and loudly said: "There was a genocide and these crimes must be marked." Our 'leaders' are still asleep. I am beginning to doubt that they can not see further than Ilidza and the so called Goat Bridge in the capital Sarajevo, and that they only come to work for pay. Kozarac is at a safe distance from Sarajevo, especially when there is still no highway about which they have been talking for ten years now. 

And another thing, if someone does not want to accept that genocide happened, because there is no final judgment of a court, it is their right, but no government can deny citizens the right to use that word with regard to all the already known facts: the 'temporary' judgment of Milosevic in June 2004 and charges against Karadzic and Mladic. Pavic said today that he is not allowed to say that 'events' are not genocide, which again is an attempt to cloud the vision of his own people as well as it was done in 1992. Only this is not 1992 anymore...

Mr. Inzko met with us ten days ago, and has previously sent a letter to Mittal in London. But even after all of this, another visit to Omarska on May 9 was refused and there were even threats from veterans organizations Omarska that they are 'monitoring the situation". However, the brave members of the Committee for the comemoration of genocide in Prijedor 1992 still went to the gates of the Omarska Mine and laid flowers. Refik Hodzic, from Prijedor, started the group On may 31, all who support the fight against genocide denial, should put a white band on their left arm. Today, Guardians of Omarska have 6200 members, 15 administrators and the group is stronger with every passing day. We are very active, write letters, contact with the media, so the story of genocide denial and prohibition of entry extends beyond Omarska. We are already seeing the first results. 

I invite all readers to join the group and give a small contribution to the "Bosnian spring." We will not tear down dictators like Arabs, but our dark past. We want to build a better future for the whole country and all peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Omarska memorial complex would, no doubt, be the eternal remembrance and warning for the future. What are the reactions of former inmates on everything related to broken promises by Mittal Steel that they will participate in its construction?

The reactions are such that people, literally, are at the end of their patience. In the Netherlands we are already thinking and working on the establishment of the foundation: "Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Diaspora. ' The reactions are such that a huge number of inmates and family members of those killed and missing have become members of the group "Guardians of Omarska" and the People are sending e-mails to the Mayor of Prijedor, which can be found on the pages of both groups. Young and old, us and foreigners are members. What we need today is a better and more concrete cooperation with organizations in the diaspora, to give a massive support to these ideas and a little more confidence in us 15 who are  literally working every day on this issue- a question of all questions when Prijedor is concerned. On a voluntary basis- of course.

We cooperate closely with both the Association of Detainees in the municipality of Prijedor (with over 5500 members), and we have the support of the Union of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has about 16,000 members. I would like to emphasize that we must not forget our returnees and activists on the ground, in Prijedor. Foundation that we establish will continue to work on this.

I think it is time that Bosnian 'diaspora' ask, what can they do? If you want to help, but do not know, ask at the Guardians of Omarska site, you do not have to be from Prijedor.

After your release from the camp, you came to the Netherlands. What do you do and what are the plans for the future?

I work as a Policy adviser in the Immigration Service, at the Ministry of Interior in the Netherlands. I was fortunate and honored to lead an EU project in Bosnia and Herzegovina 2010  and 2011, so I lived for some time again in Bosnia and began to better understand the current situation. I have not made plans since long ago, the camp works wonders, causes a man not to plan for anything, because there 'you could disappear every day', but I still think the camps, those places of death, are the key to the building of true coexistence and reconciliation. The dead can not be brought back, but with the denial of crimes they lose the name and place in our lives, not only their lives 20 years ago. I have already said something about the plans, and I want to add that we will not stop the commemoration of Omarska, but will also work to commemorate other camps in Prijedor and throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, unrelated to nationality.

We must realize that if it is normal for us to mark the place of a traffic accident, then it must be a thousand times as normal to mark Omarska and other camps. I have a feeling that we are going to need Obama to appear there, so that President of Serbia, Nikolic, as well as Dodik, who deny the genocide in Srebrenica, Pavic and others realize that the time of driving the head in the sand is over. The Mayor of Dachau, twenty years after WWII, banned a monument to the killed civilians, "because it was harmful to tourism." Today, Mayor of Prijedor, Pavic is thinking along the same lines. But as I am thinking if we marked all three camps, and made a good airport, this would actually bring in a lot of tourists like in Auschwitz and therefore a full municipal budget. Mayor of the Municipality of Prijedor is constantly talking about coexistence and economic development, but it is the commemoration of genocide that will actually bring us to better coexistence and will also bring in visit of foreigners.

The message to our readers.

I have at least ten messages, but will summarize them to five.

Do not look at Bosnia and Herzegovina as only a place to vacation, but as your own country. Therefore, do specific things that will help the country and its people. First and foremost, register while you still can, and vote in elections, both you and your children, relatives. Bosnia and Herzegovina, returnees in RS and in FBiH need your votes.

Become a member of the Guardians of Omarska and be part of the 'Bosnian Spring'.

Support the work of eight NGOs from Prijedor in commemorating the genocide in Prijedor. If you do not know how, feel free to ask.

I ask my Serb neighbors to raise their vice against Nazi policies of the nineties, and accept what happened, so we continue where we left off in 1992. Indeed, without thousands of our fellow citizens, wonderful and honest people.

Come on August 6, 2012 to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the beginning of dissolution of the Omarska concentration camp, Auschwitz of the Bosnian war. Pay your respect to those suffering souls, and show the world that we can and we want to live together in freedom and peace, in our beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which there has always been a place for everybody.


The Blood Mine

The Dark Side of Arcelor Mittal and Survivors Quest for Justice in Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Elmina Kulasic

MPP 2011

Ima da ga bude – it will have to be!” A heartbreaking phrase uttered through a shaky voice and eyes full of tears by Satko Mujagic, an Omarska concentration camp survivor.

Satko’s agony and personal quest for justice began 20 years ago on May 24, 1992 in a small town Kozarac – my hometown as well. It was supposed to be a sunny day but instead the town was surrounded and besieged. Satko as a civilian, together with the majority of inhabitants from Kozarac including my family, was detained for 200 days in surrounding concentration camps of which approximately three months have been in Omarska.   

Omarska, a notorious death camp for non-Serbs in the Prijedor municipality, was discovered in August 1992 by British journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshal which caused widespread outrage throughout the international community. The skeleton-like images reminded the world of the Second World War and the Holocaust. The images and the truths about the concentration camps were one of the key triggers which culminated in the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The crimes against humanity committed in Omarska and other surrounding death camps have not gone unpunished by the ICTY and local Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) courts.

The commitment to the return of refugees guaranteed by Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in BiH, has constructed a somewhat positive image around Kozarac and Prijedor. A number of refugees have returned, the steady economic progress together with foreign reminances has enabled them to rebuild their homes – to an extent, and the local authorities in Prijedor have given permission for the Kozarac Memorial to be built. However, these are only some of the few examples of post-conflict reconstruction and reconciliation. Unfortunately, the genocidal campaign carried out in Kozarac and Prijedor in 1992 is still very much present today in 2012. The local authorities have constructed a policy of denial and have refused to acknowledge the crimes committed. Nevertheless, the darker side of this issue and compliance with the policy of appeasement and denial is the world largest steel conglomerate which now owns 51% of the industrial mine complex where the Omarska concentration camp was situated  – Arcelor Mittal. 

On January 14, 2005 during a meeting with Omarska concentration camp survivors in Rotterdam, the former CEO for Europe of Mittal Steel agreed that access to the former concentration camp will be granted under the condition that a request for entry is sent prior to the visit. The agreement also included the preservation of the “White House,” where the detainees were tortured and killed, and the construction of the Omarska Memorial Center. In the last couple of years the agreement about the preservation of the “White House” was breached. The house was painted covering all traces of blood and evidence of torture, while the construction of the Omarska Memorial Center has been completely abandoned. Furthermore, the notorious chair on which the detainees were tortured went missing. The agreement regarding access to the concentration camp was respected until this year’s change of Arcelor Mittal policy; denial of access to the former concentration camp.  

The access to the former concentration camp was not only denied to the victim’s families, it was denied to a group of students from Munich, researchers from Goldsmiths University of London and to the Four Faces of Omarska, a peace activist’s organization from Serbia 

It is disturbing that a well established and world know corporation such as Arcelor Mittal is in the forefront when it comes to the denial of the Omarska concentration camp. On the one hand it is praising itself for its social and corporate responsibility to the local community; while on the other it is breaching its 2005 agreement with the concentration camp survivors. At the same time, while it “donated” thousands of pounds to the construction of the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London, it has yet to donate a cent to the construction of the Omarske Memorial Center. 

The struggle of the Omarska concentration camp survivors to commemorate and remember their loved ones as well as to have access to the sites were the crimes have been committed is overwhelming in every single sense. Not only do they have to deal with the loss of their loved ones; they also have to deal with corporate denial of the crimes. Nevertheless, with the involvement of the survivors, local and international non-governmental organizations as well as a number of political actors the truths will prevail. Thus, if anything is certain at this point it is that the painful echoes of the notorious concentration camp Omarska will be heard, remembered and commemorate in Prijedor – with or without Arcelor Mittal’s permission.



Camp - Entrance forbidden


A part of the artistic collective Working Group “Four Faces of Omarska”, members of the group “Monument”, doctoral candidates of the Goldsmiths University of London and the curatoresses of the Contemporary Arts Museum from Zagreb, during their two-day stay in Prijedor and Kozarac, were not allowed to pay a visit to the location of the former concentration camp Omarska, because the visit was not approved by the company ArcelorMittal Prijedor.

Anyway, their host in the “House of Peace”, alongside the Association of Camp Detainees “Prijedor 92”, was the NGO “With Heart to Peace”. 

No salvation

- It’s about a kind of facing up to the present, because now we have the facing up to the situation in which we cannot enter the location of the former concentration camp. We have no public if our past does not become part of the public speech. As long as all of the locations that used to be scenes of crime, mass graves or concentration camps remain unmarked, as long as they remain the location of private sufferings and memories, there is no salvation for us – said Milica Tomic, one of the authors of the “Four Faces of Omarska” and a member of the group “Monument”, yesterday.

Eyal Weizman, Director of the Centre for Research in the field of architecture of the Goldsmiths University, expressed his regret yesterday from Kozarac at not having been in position to pay a visit to Omarska.   


- I find it unheard-of that one such location has been privatized and that it is not possible to be visited by the scientists who came from far away and from abroad – said Weizman, who has visited, together with the participants of this gathering, the location of Trnopolje concentration camp, mass graves locations, shahid cemeteries, the memorial in Kozarac and the “Kozara” National Park.  

Access not safe

In the previous press announcement from the company ArcelorMittal from Prijedor it was stated that “during the works in progress they are not in position to ensure a safe access to Omarska”.

- For that reason we have asked all of the individuals and organizations wishing to visit this location to make such plans for the 6th of August, when the access would be safe – was the message from this company. (Avaz, 16 April 2012)



We knew...


'We knew very well what happened at Auschwitz or Dachau, and we knew very well
how it started and how it was done. What we did was the same as Auschwitz or
Dachau, but it was a mistake. It was planned to have been a camp, but not a
concentration camp.' Milan Kovacevic, President of the Executive Committee of the Municipal Assembly of Prijedor from January 1991 to March 1993, talking about Omarska and other camps in Prijedor, 10 June 1996




Look for the differences

"I spent 90% of my money on women and drinks. The rest I wasted."

George Best


In the land of Blood and Honey


The Prijedor Ostrich and the Instructors of Positive History


“1. April, A Donkey Towing Paper!”

 I am reading the issue of Oslobodjenje[1] from 1 April, 2009, and in spite of, and without regard for, the fact that “nothing more can surprise us”,[2] and especially nothing from my native Prijedor, I cannot overcome my wonder at the long article about Prijedor, Anno Domini 2009. Occupying two pages in the middle of the newspaper, the (alleged) journalist Božica Radić  shares with us a wide-ranging story about this Bosnian city: “A city of renowned beauty”, reads her breathless, unoriginal heading. So, sipping his morning coffee, the uninformed reader from Trebinje, Mostar, or Prozor quickly learns the following things to augment his association of Prijedor with the old song, “Prijedor…full of my sevdah[3]: Prijedor has had a railroad line since 1873; it withstood a great fire in 1882; and just a year later, the Volunteer Fire Department was formed. And the first European-educated painters in Bosnia were from Prijedor; as many as fifty trained artists were born in Prijedor. Thus, says the author, Prijedor is a “city of artists”.

We further learn that people have played tennis in Prijedor since the wartime year of 1915, and that today’s tourism “has much to offer”. “In Prijedor”, she writes, “they believe that in order to attract a larger number of tourists, experience has shown that it is necessary to work more on the development of high-quality, well-conceived xafsing and presentation of touristic potential”. “It is thought”, she continues, “that Prijedor, together with its surrounding region, could develop tourism along environmental lines and in the village spas. Hunting and fishing, recreational sports, and special events could attract visitors as well. Tourism could also be based on the region’s cultural and historical heritage”.  

From the mouth of the devil… 

At the end of the article, there is a picture of Mayor Pavić with a sour smile and a brief selection of his most important quotes. And Marko Pavić is, true to the spirit of the article, full of optimism and -- ostensibly -- proud that Prijedor, “in the past four years, as one Ambassador noted, has been transformed from a black hole into a setting in which it is worthwhile to invest”. 

Here, the interested and uninformed reader with a sharp eye would perhaps ask, “What kind of black hole is involved here? I would have thought that after the great fire of 1882, the city was rebuilt by now? And why would some Ambassador -- that is, a foreigner -- speak this way about some little town on the very northwestern fringe of Bosnia, far from Sarajevo where he otherwise resides?” However, many readers around Bosnia-Herzegovina, entertained by the daily economic problems, and each by his own local politicians, have long since lost interest. People who have been dulled by war and by life in post-Dayton Bosnia hardly wish to be so very well-informed, and certainly not by any close examination. Thus, these and similar journalistic “works” shamelessly continue to fill the pages of magazines and newspapers throughout this Bosnia-Herzegovina that belongs to no one -- or, in fact (how did Moša Pijade[4] put it, in November, 1943?[5]) -- to everyone. 

So far, our shameful war history and the poor situation of returnees has mostly been obscured and censored in the media of the smaller -- they call it “Serb” -- entity. But there, right on 1 April, 2009, on the day of (black) humor, from the now apparently former black hole, it is the turn of the legendary Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje. So from the article about this city, the happy and smiling readers in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Prijedor itself, as well as nearby Kozarac[6], would not gain an inkling that beyond the borders of the country our Prijedor, aside Sarajevo, Mostar, and Srebrenica, is the most well-known city in this, our one and only Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Because in The Hague, and in Washington, London, Geneva, and Paris, they have known about Prijedor ever since 1992.  

Part Two - “Unrenowned” History

They know, that is, that back in 1992 the municipality of Prijedor founded and, for months, carefully concealed, and finally brought to light three concentration camps, of which one, that at Keraterm, existed within the borders of the town itself. Suddenly three stunted, under-nourished triplets were born, the illegitimate offspring of the father Radovan of Durmitor[7] and the Prijedoran mother, whose maiden name was the “crisis staff of the Serb municipality of Prijedor”.[8]  

Prijedor is a municipality with 3,254 civilian victims from the recent war, and to date, 63 mass graves have been discovered. The grave in Stari Kevljani, immediately next to the Omarska camp, was found in August, 2004. To that point it had carefully concealed from the light of day the remains of its population of 456, including Bosniaks, Croats, and members of other ethnicities. Many Prijedorans, including Pavić’s wartime colleague mayor Milomir Stakić, today serve their well-earned sentences meted out at The Hague, Sarajevo, and Banja Luka for crimes committed at Korićanske Stijene;[9] in the camps of Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm; for the mass murders in Stari Grad (Old Town), in Kozarac, Hambarine, Briševo, Čarakovo; for the systematic, planned, and implemented expulsion and slaughter of the non-Serb inhabitants.

That is how Prijedor has become a “great Bosnian city”. Not as a city of celebrated beauty, as it was humorously represented on 1 April, 2009 by Oslobodjenje to the many and varied Bosnian readers, but as the first Bosnian Srebrenica. And just because of this “unsung”  -- only in Prijedor -- history, sadly, people know of Prijedor, all the way from Finland to Brazil. Not because of any tennis in 1915, nor through tourism, and certainly not through any “special events”. That is, unless the above-mentioned touristic hunting includes the hunt for humans that took place in 1992.

Based on the number (over 30) of those accused and tried, besides being a city of artists, Prijedor is, if we follow the logic of Božice Radić , also a city of criminals.

Today there are numerous monuments in this city, such as one in front of the municipal Parliament -- a large black cross -- and the one for the fallen Serb fighters, shamelessly erected in front of the former camp at Trnopolje. They tell the broadly promoted, simple story of one ethnicity that, from Prijedor in 1992, created that black hole that Pavić mentions. Even the names of the streets have been altered. So has the name of the famous Prijedor Gymnasium, once called “Esad Midžić”, after the man who, in the thirties and forties of the previous century, together with Doctor Mladen Stojanović[10], ennobled this city. Today that Gymnasium bears the name “Sveti Sava”, after a man who in his (long-ago Medieval) era never set foot in Bosnia-Herzegovina, let alone Prijedor. These changes clumsily conceal the fact that in Prijedor, up until 1991, 44% of the population was Bosniak (or “muslims” with a small “m”, that is, believers, as the seemingly inarticulate Mrs. Radić  calls them). 

Those (often) black monuments, and these -- still, today -- black holes, hide this shameful history of the once lovely, multi-ethnic city on the green Sana River, but only from the Prijedorans themselves. They hide the fact that the sons and daughters of Prijedor; the esteemed professors of that Gymnasium; the doctors and specialists of the Prijedor hospital honored with the name of Dr. Mladen Stojanović; the businessmen, inspectors, policemen, laborers, miners, villagers, and the women and children; one by one, during that rainy summer of 1992, were tormented to death in the camps.  

They hide the fact that these citizens of Prijedor were led away in groups, and then shot in the back in a cowardly fashion and scattered in pits all around the “once celebrated” Prijedor. And in this way Prijedor killed its students, Prijedor raped its girls, Prijedor expelled its inhabitants, Prijedor robbed and torched its houses, and Prijedor, using machines from the mines at Ljubija, dug itself those sixty-three great, black holes. 

But it does not occur to anyone in this year of 2009 to lift the veil, even a little, on that darkness, and for example to support the initiative for the construction of a Memorial Centre at the former camp of Omarska. As Ed Vulliamy (British journalist who, on 5 August, 1992, together with his colleague Penny Marshall, discovered the camps of Prijedor) said, “Omarska camp, was, after Srebrenica, the most fertile killing field of the Bosnian war”. 

Part Three - Prijedor - City of Genocide

Thus Prijedor, besides having been renowned long ago, since 1992 is also a city of genocide, carried out professionally and conceived with surgical precision. Not with the precision of the late Doctor Esad Sadiković, that great Prijedoran and Sarajevan, Bosniak, Serb and Croat, a Yugoslav, and above all a Bosnian. That Doctor Esad who, just like Doctors Pašić, Sikora, and Rešić, are no longer there to share a drink of Cockta[11] and to go around Prijedor healing both “your” and “our” children. They were taken out of Omarska and then, though carefully tracked by the alert hawk-eyes of the powerful but quiet American satellites, driven for hours together with 123 other wretched victims from the camps. They were viciously shot, that steamy August night of 1992, and thrown like sacks into yet another black hole of Prijedor, just twelve hours before the arrival of the British journalists and finally the discovery of the three Prijedoran foundlings.  

I say “genocide”, because in June of 2004 the Hague Tribunal, in a decision against Slobodan Milošević, characterized the events in the “renowned” Prijedor as genocide. Prijedor, the city in which in 1992, after the pogroms, the ekavica[12] dialect was forcefully introduced (as they say, “leave no stone unturned”). I say “precision”, bearing in mind Esad’s colleague who died in a cell at The Hague, one of those thirty “artists” of the nineties, Dr. Milan Kovačević.[13] According to him, at least as a drunken Milan himself once babbled to some journalists, “this war has been going on since the time of Barbarossa”. 

“Yes”, as Roćko from ‘Pozorište u kući’ (“Theater at Home”[14]) said, “but not in my home”. 

And perhaps that precision and professionalism was best expressed, in just a couple of words, back in 1996, by yet another former colleague of Pavić and Kovačević from the Prijedoran tentacle of the Bosnian octopus of the “Demo Serbocratic Party”[15]. The late Simo Drljača, member of the municipal crisis staff, indicted by the Hague Tribunal, said, "With their mosques, you must not just break the minarets… You've got to shake up the foundations because that means they cannot build another. Do that, and they'll want to go. They'll just leave by themselves."[16]

This is what has become of Prijedor since 1992, every day, except for 1 April, 2009.  

Part Four - Priorities of Prijedor, and the Kozarac Kvrguša  

It is too soon, perhaps, for a catharsis. Because it doesn’t occur to Pavić, nor to anyone else in “Predor”, to show all 25,000 of the returnees, and in this way the entire world, through their behavior, that he and the inhabitants of this city reject that shameful past. Just a year ago the municipal Mayor publicly announced that he opposed the construction of a Memorial Center at Omarska.

Village-spa tourism and fishing are the municipal priorities, says the April first story… 

But the recent history and its public record -- or lack thereof -- are not the only matter that is passed over in this article, one which fits comfortably into the category of free commercials and obituaries.

Neither Radić nor Pavić mention that for years, the returnee population in Kozarac has been struggling to acquire the necessary housing for the Volunteer Firefighters Association, founded in long-ago 1892. The firehouse was destroyed in 1992, as was practically every other building in Kozarac. This century-old association,  having rebuilt itself based on donations and the hard work of the citizens of Kozarac, has yet to be included in the municipal budget. 

No one mentions that the citizens of Kozarac and other returnees struggle throughout the summer and winter because of yet-unresolved problems with the water supply. (Meanwhile, there is always water in Prijedor.) Nor that reconstruction of the clinic in Kozarac was finally begun in 2008 (return began in 1998) - but again, without funding from Prijedor municipality. 

No one has even shown the slightest bit of interest in the fact that the main street in Kozarac is full of potholes. A couple of years ago humanitarian fundraising by Kozarac residents and foreign organizations -- not the municipality -- provided benches, garbage cans, and dumpsters for Kozarac. And returnees are contributing to that budget, but so are the refugees who, in these postwar years, only fill the pubs and the xafss of the entire municipality during the summer.

The situation is similar in other, once burned-down places and parts of the municipality that become a “priority” to everyone only during the local elections, as was the case before the elections in 2008.  

Returnees thus become a sort of mascot of the city, a Prijedor Vučko[17], a reason for the next Ambassador to show up, to stuff himself with the ćevapčići[18] of Prijedor, to be told how everyone is comfortable in Prijedor, how there is a place for everyone, and to announce with one stroke of the pen that Prijedor is no longer such a black hole.

It is time for Pavić and the powerful Sarajevo ambassadors, and the lower-echelon representatives, to come and once more sample the chicken pie of Kozarac. They will always find a welcome.

Part Five - K'o bajagi...

During Vučko’s Olympic days of Sarajevo, 1984, in Belgrade a band was formed, “Bajaga and the Instructors of Positive Geography”.

The politics of today’s municipal government and of the mayor of Prijedor municipality were faithfully processed and wrapped in cellophane for the 1 April issue of Oslobodjenje. Following the example of Bajaga and the popular Belgrade musicians, it could be characterized as “Pavić and the Instructors of Positive History”. 

It is clear that much more water will flow down the Sana before the Prijedor Serbs, as represented by the current municipal government that they themselves selected, will stop hiding behind the overly transparent and, to tell the truth, somewhat childish veil of silence. Their hope seems to be that someone, one sunny day, will take an eraser and simply erase that recent, tormented history of that self-stigmatized city. 

It is also apparent that many Prijedorans -- today -- do not support the crimes, the mass murder, and the expulsion of their neighbors that happened between 1992 and 1995; however, they remain silent, not comprehending that in this way, they are making that erstwhile black hole still blacker.

Because until the remaining 1,559 missing Prijedorans are found, and as long as the places of the crimes are not marked in a dignified way, and until the returnees are not ensured the most basic living conditions that they left behind during that bloody May of 1992, then these sweet stories will remain simply an April Fools’ joke. 

It is quite obvious, in fact, that the city of Prijedor would most gladly turn to the future, to the development of the city and its tourism. And of course there is nothing bad about that. The development of the municipality and tourism would repair the economic, cultural, and social situation for all inhabitants of the municipality, and thereby, certainly, the inter-ethnic relations. The problem is that Prijedor does not know how to do so, nor does it utilize its own potential. And that, along with the constant denial of the past, is also clear from the above-described article.  

But, you see, with a little imagination, that one could attract those great crowds of tourists and travelers whom Pavić and the Instructors eagerly await, but who know Prijedor only by its black history.  

How? Quite easily, my friend… 

Part Six - The Prijedoran Ostrich Flock 

For starters, Prijedor could introduce a symbol of the city, something that would recall a concept that is specifically relevant to Prijedor. Animals, for example, are often symbols of cities. The stork is the symbol of a city that is today dear to Prijedorans, The Hague, and an excellent candidate for our celebrated city would certainly be -- the ostrich. The Prijedoran ostrich would symbolize that pathological need of the Prijedoran to stick his head in the sand, denying his own past, thinking that while his head is in the sand, that past did not even take place.

Today, in the 21st century, such an act by the municipality would inevitably attract the attention both of the domestic and foreign media, and thus of masses of European tourists, eager for new, undiscovered, European localities. Instead of the clumsy war monuments at every turn, at least every second one of them could be replaced with a great ostrich, in all (of our) colors.

If the idea were accepted, the ostrich could also replace the four Serbian “S’s”[19] that were stuck into the coat-of-arms of the city of Prijedor right after the pogrom of 1992. It is true that the ostrich, just like the four S’s in Prijedor, would only symbolize one, Serbian nation. But in the case of the ostrich, the Bosniaks and Croats would, after such a long wait for any kind of equal rights (and the return of the old symbol, the sun above the Sana), relinquish such a demand. The ostrich would, in addition to development of the city, bring prosperity to all, regardless of ethnicity. And that is what Pavić and the Instructors of Positive History, as well as all other inhabitants of Prijedor, desire.  

Every year we could, following the example of similar presentations in other cities, hold an ostrich race, which would become traditional, and probably unique in the Balkans or even further afield. After just a couple of years, the “Prijedor Ostrich Race” would attract the masses from the Vardar all the way to Triglav[20]. This sort of entertainment, new and completely unknown to all of Bosnia-Herzegovina, would outshine the Corrida of Grmeč[21]. It would represent that new “high-quality concept of xafsing” and introduce an attractive element to the present, ever paler, “grey Prijedor”. 

Finally, likenesses of the Prijedoran ostrich could be sold as souvenirs, emblems on ink-pens, tee-shirts, and caps with the name “Prijedor”, all following the example of the world’s metropolises. The souvenir factories, of course, would be located within the municipality. It would be best for them to be in some returnee, non-Serb settlement, so as to dispel all suspicion that the city chose its ostrich simply on a whim or out of greed, but rather as a matter of true catharsis.

The factory, as happened with Agrokomerc[22], certainly would grow into the largest company in the region; only Prijedorans of all colors would work there, and those couple of Indians from Mittal Steel[23]. That mining complex, meanwhile, in the middle of the world economic crisis, would be going bankrupt and the plant at Omarska would be sold to the Ostrich Factory, which would further contribute to the development of the city.

“Ostrich” would, unlike the perfidious Mittal, immediately close the site of the former camp at Omarska and all of the locations where, in 1992, people were detained, tortured, and killed. These spaces would be converted into museums, and then, instead of searching for iron ore, the authorities would first search for the human bones scattered among the excavation sites of Omarska.

Finally, one could think about entire ostrich farms in the countryside, say, in Marićka, where Prijedorans could come with their children and visit on their days off, resting from the painstaking work in the ostrich souvenir factory.

To conclude

In such a setting, now economically healthy and prosperous, the next phase would be the cultural-historical tourism mentioned by Pavić (which is, at present, truly at the bottom of the list). Prijedor, as is the case with Krakow, could develop because of its very history. Millions of tourists from around the world visit Krakow annually, and the main reason is to visit the former concentration camp at Auschwitz.  

It is true that nothing in history may be compared with that factory of death, but there are few places in our recent history that, like Prijedor, have been adorned with three camps. The photographs from Trnopolje and Omarska were a direct prompt for the establishment of war crimes tribunal at The Hague, and Prijedor could utilize that fact to the maximum extent in the 21st century. With a good advertising campaign for our three camp-foundlings, those three examples of human madness which we have left where they belong, in that previous twentieth century, perhaps Prijedor could even surpass in reputation the “famous,“ but  “already-seen“ Srebrenica. And Prijedor could eclipse the long-feature documentary about sniping on civilians in the besieged firing range of Sarajevo.  

Let us remember that, unlike in Srebrenica, the murdering in Prijedor lasted for three whole years, and unlike in Sarajevo, the non-Serbs of Prijedor were unable to run to the basements, because their houses had been robbed and torched. These factors, along with the well-known human urge -- particularly among pampered European tourists -- to visit places of misfortune and torment, would lead to the expansion of cultural-historical tourism in Prijedor. This is exactly what Pavić and the Instructors - till now obviously lacking the right idea - have eagerly been awaiting.  

And just as with Krakow, Prijedor could thus, because of the vicinity of the camps, construct an international airport and so in the foreseeable future even compete with the airports at Zagreb and Banja Luka. 

At that moment, finally all preconditions for the development of the other branches of tourism would be created: environmental visits, the village-spa, and above all, fishing in that once again renowned city.

In this framework, we may not ever forget the huge number of innocent, primarily Serb victims from the Second World War. Future visits to Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje should be extended with visits to Gradina and Kozara[24], as well as to Jasenovac[25] in neighboring Croatia. In this way we would honor all of the victims of our common human stupidity, but it would be clear to all, and finally to us Prijedorans, that every crime is just another crime.

All of those unnecessarily murdered, those lives senselessly taken, our common dead from the Gradinas, the Omarskas, the Jasenovaces and the Keraterms of the previous century, would unconsciously, though dead, connect us who are alive in this century.

And all of us, everyone, alive or dead, small giants and large dwarves of all colors, languages, and religions, following the example of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, would attentively observe the statue of our Prijedor Ostrich on Pašinac hill above Prijedor.

16 April, 2009

(translated from Bosnian by Peter Lippman)

[1] Daily newspaper from Sarajevo

[2]Objavio/la satkom u 16:12, 0 komentar(a), print, #


Welcome to Omarska


Somebody is playing...

By Maja Lovrenović The iron mines of Ljubija [ly-u-bı-a] are situated in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the 1970s, the region was estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of iron ore in the Balkans. During the 1992-1995 war, the local Serb forces employed the mines’ technology to produce ‘ethnic cleansing’: the mines’ facilities were used to lock up, starve, rape, torture and kill the local Bosniaks and Croats. The mining pits and machinery were used to move and bury their bodies. The most notorious of those sites was the Omarska death camp (Thanks to the British journalist Ed Vulliamy, the existence of death camps in northwestern Bosnia was well documented and revealed to the international public, and in particular, to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. See: ICTY summary indictment of 1995 on the Omarska death camp).

In 2004, the local Serb authorities sold 51% of the Ljubija mines to the world’s largest steel producer Arcelor Mittal, owned by one of the world’s richest men, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. Soon afterwards, the extraction of iron ore from the pits was restarted, despite the fact that some 1.500 people are still listed as missing and believed to have been buried in secret mass graves across the mines’ complex (For more details, images and maps on the Ljubija mines, see the „Ljubija Mine Scandal“ dossier). In 2005, the survivors of these horrors were given a promise by Arcelor Mittal CEOs that they will be allowed to set up a memorial and commemorate freely at the site of the Omarska death camp. Yet, two days ago, according to Bosnian daily newspaper, the current Arcelor Mittal management denies having ever given such promise.

The global company argues that they do not want to interfere with the local ethnic politics, seemingly ignorant of the fact that their position in the ongoing Omarska death camp memorial debate suits the local Serb authorities in their attempt to eradicate the traces of crimes committed there. Furthermore, the company is also in the spotlight of Amnesty International, for ethnic discrimination in employment at the Ljubija mines.

This new denial of any responsibility for the purchased ‘troubled spot’ (a concept of social scientist Pierre Bourdieu) comes on top of the thwarted memorial negotiation process that took place in 2005-2006, when the company hired ‘Soul of Europe’, an NGO run by the English Anglican priest Donald Reeves, and paid it one hundred thousand euro to mediate the memorial initiative process between the survivors and the local Serb authorities. Attempting to turn the survivors’ quest for memorial into their own project of reconciliation between ethnic-religious groups, ‘Soul of Europe’ insisted on a memorial design that would include religious symbols of the Serb-Orthodox community.

This attempt enraged the survivors and family members of the death camp victims, who were, in turn, portrayed as ‘spoilers’ of the negotiating process both in media (e.g. Radio Netherlands Worldwide) and in the book authored by Rev. Donald Reeves in 2008. Thus botched mediating process opened new wounds and tensions on top of the older ones. Arcelor Mittal fired ‘Soul of Europe’ and since then the NGO had moved from Bosnia-Herzegovina on to Kosovo with the same missionary and ‘reconciliatory’ agenda. Nonetheless, in his book on the ‘Omarska Project’, Rev. Reeves claims to have shown “how it is possible to dismantle nationalism”.

Three years later, Arcelor Mittal grounds its rebuttal of the promise of memorial given to the survivors of the Omarska death camp on quite the opposite claim – that they do not want to interfere with the local ethnic politics. Of finding the bodies of those still listed as missing, nobody even speaks any more, as the extraction of iron ore in the Ljubija mines charts new highs.

Maja Lovrenović completed her Masters at the Department for Social and Cultural Anthropology at the VU. She is currently applying for a PhD position In her research she focuses on memory, violence and historical imagination in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina.


US Congress on Omarska

BAACBH would like to recognize and commend U.S. Congresswoman Sue Myrick (R-NC) and Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) for their support of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Bosnian people.

BAACBH was alarmed by the recent events that took place in Prijedor, BiH regarding the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees that takes place on May 9th of each year at the site of the former Omarska concentration camp. Omarska was one of the most notorious concentration camps during the war in BiH. It was one of three camps set up in northern BiH to rid the country of non-Serbs where around 6,000 Bosniaks and Croats were held in appalling and brutal conditions for five months in the spring and summer of 1992.  Currently, the biggest steel company in the world, ArcelorMittal owns the mining complex site in Omarska; however, no memorial commemorating the concentration camp exists to this day.

In her statement before the U.S. Congress on May 23, 2011, Rep. Myrick recognized the victims of the concentration camp in Omarska and praised British journalists Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams on their brave reporting that helped uncover the horrors of Omarska to the world. On June 14, 2011, Rep. Smith, the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Bosnia and the Chair of the Helsinki Commission spoke at length about how  remembering the victims is crucial to the reconciliation process so that atrocities that occurred in Omarska are never repeated again. Rep. Smith spoke of foreign correspondent Roy Gutman who called Omarska a "death camp'' and reported on the horrid conditions,  rapes and tortures at Omarska and surrounding camps. Congressman Smith concluded his speech by stating:  "The horrors that took place at Omarska and their lasting impact on Bosnian society certainly warrant such a memorial. It would provide some closure to victims, and it would counter those who are still unwilling to acknowledge the horrific crimes that, in undeniable fact, were committed there in 1992. It would also serve as a lasting reminder to us all. If atrocities on the scale of those at the Omarska camp are not appropriately remembered, they are more likely to be repeated, in some other distant town or village presently unknown to us. That is why we have these memorials: in the hope we will never forget nor ever allow such crimes to be repeated. As the Chairman of the Bosnian Caucus, I encourage the present owners of the mining complex to permit and support the establishment of a permanent memorial at Omarska. I bring this issue to the attention of my colleagues in the hope they can join me in this call."

To view the entire statements made by Congresswoman Myrick and Congressman Smith regarding the Omarska concentration camp please click on the following links:

Rep. Myrick :

Rep. Smith :


Who was Željko Sikora? A Czech perspective on the war in Bosnia

Despite the recent arrest and extradition of Mladic, the war in former Yugoslavia (1991-1995) has largely been forgotten. Fifteen years is, after all, a long time and many things have happened since; other wars have been waged, some are being waged at this very moment, we all have our own problems to worry about and who can think of the horrors in the world all the time?

Yet, many like to recall the splendid Yugoslavia in the times before its breakup, a country of friendly people and a captivating sea, where the Winnetou movie series was filmed; the country where people spoke a language similar to our own and where – when Czechoslovakia lacked goods – almost everything could be found.

That country dissolved as did ours, indeed as roughly the same time. Unlike our ‘Velvet Separation,’ the breakup of Yugoslavia has become notorious for its cruelty, ethnic cleansing and genocide accompanied by crimes against humanity such as mass murder, torture of civilians and the systematic deployment of sexual abuse and other forms of violence aimed at citizenry.

In this context, the concentration camps Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje established by Bosnian Serbs in northern Bosnia at the outset of the Yugoslavian conflict became known as ‘death camps.’ It is in such facilities that members of non-Serbian ethnic groups – especially Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) – were kept prisoners in inhumane conditions; where they were systematically beaten, tortured and, finally, killed. Besides Bosniaks, people of other nationalities were persecuted there, most of them Croats and also one Czech man.

I first heard of him in Sarajevo earlier this year when I spoke to one Satko Mujagić, a former inmate and survivor of the Omarska concentration camp. Life is full of coincidences that cannot be explained. Perhaps it was fate; who knows? How would you make sense of the fact that you have a long-lasting interest in crimes against humanity, especially those committed during the Yugoslavian wars in the 1990s, you even write your doctoral dissertation on the topic, and then you embark on a work-travel trip to Sarajevo that pertains to a completely different issue, and when you get there, your Bosnian colleague – a genuine, sympathetic and intelligent person, among other things – tells you that he had been imprisoned in the most notorious concentration camp during the war.

We discussed it for hours. He ordered a beer, lit a cigarette and started talking. If you didn’t hear his story, you would never be able to tell, that this man, 190cms tall with almost 100kgs in weight, had been in a concentration camp. But he had been there. At the time when Satko – only two years older than me – was tortured in prison and weighed less than 50 kilos, I was spending my summer with friends, worrying about beer and girls. He showed me a photograph of what he had looked like at the end of his devastating ordeal, when he was leaving Omarska; skeletal with eyes of a wounded animal. The same faces as those we know from the photographs taken some fifty years previously, at Auschwitz.

We were in the middle of our conversation and, out of a sudden, he said:

‘Did you know that when I was kept prisoner in Omarska, a Czech man died in one of the other Serbian concentration camps in the area?’
‘What?’ Was all I could reply.
‘Yes, there was a doctor of Czech origins in prison in one of the Serbian concentration camps close to Prijedor, it was at the time of my imprisonment. His name was Željko Sikora.’

I was deeply shaken by this information. How did a Czech end up in a Serbian concentration camp and why did he die there? Knowing that a person with Czech roots died there kept me awake that and other nights.

Dr. Željko Sikora was born in 1957 and worked as a gynecologist in Prijedor hospital. He was imprisoned in the Keraterm concentration camp, together with other representatives of the non-Serbian intelligentsia during the so-called Prijedor Genocide (also known as Prijedor Massacre) which was, after Srebrenica, the second largest massacre committed during the Bosnian War.

What follows from Minka Čehajič’s testimony given on 14 May 2002, testifying in the case of Milomir Stakić charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is that doctor Željko Sikora together with other scholars, doctors and prominent people of non-Serbian origin were incarcerated in Prijedor in a local police station at the end of May 1992. Subsequently, Mr. Sikora was transported to the Keraterm concentration camp. Several sources independently (of each other) stated that Dr. Sikora ‘disappeared’ following his detention and imprisonment, and it is therefore reasonable to presume that he and other doctors – Dr. Enes Begić, Dr. Osman Mahmuljin and Dr. Razim Musić – were beaten to death in the aforementioned concentration camp.

(Dr. Milomir Stakic in the court of The Hague Tribunal)

It is difficult to document precisely what had happened and how. Nevertheless, it remains certain that in 2001 a mass grave was discovered in the Jakarina kosa area, close to Prijedor, which held the mortal remains of some 372 consequently exhumed bodies. One of them was Dr. Sikora’s.

This alone is a horrifying story, but it does not end here. Not only was Dr. Sikora killed, but his name and good reputation were damaged too. The story of Dr. Željko Sikora is known as an example of intense abuse of the media for propaganda purposes during the Bosnian War with the intention of creating an air of fear, hatred and violence. Serbian propaganda deliberately produced such atmosphere, on both the national and regional levels. The aim was to produce a reason for the carnage against civilians which was later justified by the Serbian media that helped spread information which leaves us speechless even today.

The “news” of Serb civilians beaten to death in the Croatian town of Pakrac in 1991, of forty murdered Serbian children in another Croatian town, Vukovar, that same year, or of Serbian children being fed to lions in the ZOO during the siege of Sarajevo have never been confirmed. Neither has the “story” of Dr. Željko Sikora whom, prior to the Prijedor Massacre, the Serbian media portrayed – together with doctors Mujadžić and Mahmuljin – as a “Monster Doctor” who forced Serbian women into involuntary abortions if their newborn child was to be a boy, and who castrated Serbian newborn males. It is unnecessary to point out that such stories were purposefully construed pieces of fiction. In the atmosphere of deliberately stirred hatreds further fuelled by nationalist circles, this played a decisive role. The non-Serbian intelligentsia from Prijedor was stigmatized to legitimise what was about to happen. The article on a “Monster Doctor” published in Kozarski Vjesnik and the news broadcast in that same spirit on Prijedor Radio were doubtlessly used as a pretext for Dr. Sikora’s detention and they also contributed to the fact that he was then beaten to death in the Keraterm concentration camp.
I am well-aware that Dr. Željko Sikora was “only” one of at least 3200 persons killed or missing in Prijedor, although some sources talk of more than 5000 people directly from Prijedor and another 14000 in its vicinity which fell victim to the ethnic cleansing in the area. All available public sources and the testimony referred to above further state that Dr. Sikora was Croatian and not Czech. Thanks to help from Satko Mujagić and his friends, it was uncovered that Dr. Željko Sikora was, in fact, a descendant of an old mining foremen of Czech origin, who came to the Gornja Puharska region in northern Bosnia from Bohemia during the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Dr. Sikora’s body was found at Jakarina Kosa, part of the Ljubija iron ore mines where his ancestors had sought work. His remains were brought to the town of Slavonska Požega, Croatia, in 2004.

I do not think it is important to know whether Dr. Sikora was Croat or Czech. What is significant is the fact that Dr. Sikora and hundreds of people of different nationalities were beaten to death in the Keraterm concentration camp, and until now there is only a small memorial plaque embedded in the grass at the site to remind the world of the camp’s existence. The same is true of the worst Bosnian concentration camp Omarska, even though since 2004 there have been attempts to raise a proper memorial there. The current owner of the property, Arcelor Mittal, now mines iron ore in Omarska and is thus reluctant to interrupt its industrial output to pay homage to those that paid the ultimate price so others would not have to. It is a sad commentary that so many people perished – in the worst conditions – for no more than an enflamed sense of national identity. It is sadder still that industrial output and quotas now prevent proper homage to the fallen.

Bohumil Hnidek






Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mr. CARNAHAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the victims of a notorious concentration camp in Omarska, located in northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In the summer of 1992, Omarska was the site of mass human rights violations in an attempt to drive non-Serbs from this part of the country.

When the world learned of these mass atrocities, U.N. prosecutors brought cases against many of the perpetrators of these crimes.

The ICTY found several guilty of crimes against humanity.

Remembering the victims of Omarska allows the survivors and families of the victims to mark this tragic chapter.

This is critical to reconciliation, and to the future of Bosnia.

I strongly urge all companies, municipalities, and others to allow anniversary events to take place in Omarska.

It is critical that all involved allow a memorial to be built, and for all parties to respect the commemoration of Omarska and the right of remembrance so that the horrors of Omarska are never repeated again.


3 wars in one 'small' story

"In 2014 it will be 100 years ago that the atentat of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo triggered the start of the First World War. It is important to mark this tragic historic event, a devastating war that lead to many deaths, suffering, division and horrors throughout Europe and the world. But it is even more important to mark and celebrate European unity and peace today. To reaffirm Europe's message of peace and stability, I believe it would  send a very important  message if Sarajevo  would  be  proclaimed  the European Capital of Culture  of  2014. Not just because it was where the First World War started, but because in Europe, it is in Bosnia and Herzegovina that we had the most recent war in the nineties. During the bloody war and the siege of Sarajevo that lasted three years, citizens of Sarajevo have endured a lot. Today it is a city where despite everything that happened, it has maintained its multicultural spirit and strength. In order to recognize this, it would be a strong symbolic gesture to name Sarajevo the European Capitol of Culture 2014." says Emine Bozkurt prior to the debate that will be held this week in Strasbourg in the plenary session of the European Parliament on Thursday.  

The European Parliament, with the support of the Social and Democrats will ask the European Commission whether they will support the request by the city of Sarajevo to be named, by exception, the European Capitol of Culture in 2014.  

Emine Bozkurt adds: "War is devastating and leaves marks on people's lives. Sometimes it seems easier for people to forget the past to be able to go on with their lives. But it is only when we deal with our past, when we recognize and face history that we can look openly to the future. Today, we celebrate Europe Day! BiH wants to be part of the European Union. Therefore, it needs positive peaceful messages of peace and reconciliation between its peoples. Not only in Sarajevo, but throughout the country and with its neighbours.  

"Today, at the place of the former concentration camp Omarska, people from Bosnia and Serbia have commemorated the deaths and sufferings that happened there, together for the first time since the beginning of the war. The sufferings of civilians during the wars in the nineties must be honourably commemorated so as to become part of public memory. Memorial initiatives, with positive messages of peace, hope and togetherness of all peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina and together with its neighbours can be an important step towards reconciliation and a multiethnic society and progress on the path towards the EU."  


Experts for hatred


BY NIHADA HASIC - 06.05.2011 17:31

The Mayor of Prijedor Municipality and the President of the Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS) has a very specific recipe by means of which he’s trying to defend the citizens of Prijedor from new conflicts and discharges of hatred.

Marko Pavic is conducting his protector’s mission by opposing the gathering of the members of the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees of BiH in front of the former Omarska Camp, planned for May 9th – the Victory Day over Fascism. Gathering of the victims is considered by the DNS to be a political provocation, which may have unforeseeable harmful consequences for the coexistence in Prijedor. And how much he himself cares for the tolerance and the consequences of his “peaceable” statements is best illustrated through his elucidation as to why the gathering of former Bosniak and Croat detainees is unacceptable at the location where they were detained in the summer of 1992.

“The Day of Victory over Fascism is not appropriate for holding of such a manifestation, unless the organizer of the gathering has some connections with those who plundered Europe 60 years ago”, explained Pavic.

The irony with which the victims are brought into connection with the fascism of the first half of the 20th century is even more unacceptable as this statement was uttered by a man who has just two years ago in Sarajevo been proclaimed the best mayor of the Central and Southeast Europe. At that time Pavic spoke of his merits as to why Prijedor has become, even for the international community, a bright example of development, coexistence and prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and not so long ago had it been considered, due to the war crimes committed, a dark spot in Europe.

Declaratively, the Mayor of Prijedor is all for coexistence at present as well. That is exactly why, as he claims, he’s opposing the gathering of the former concentration camp detainees whose participants shall “discharge their indignation and hatred, leaving the citizens of Prijedor with an evil seed that they shall afterwards have to be struggling with and overcoming it”. It is praiseworthy that Pavic is thinking on a long term and warning about possible consequences of other people’s statements and actions whereas he’s not thinking about what he’s achieving with his prohibition. Should he have observed the interest of his citizens and compatriots he’d surely have sustained himself from embargo and connecting victims with fascists. With his decision to, shortly before the “disputable” gathering in Omarska, additionally heat up the boiling political atmosphere in BiH, Pavic leaves an open room for prohibitions also of some other commemorative gatherings, which we, unfortunately, abound with. 

As per schedule, after Prijedor, the next in line is the commemoration of the anniversary of the sufferings of the soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) at Brcanska Malta in Tuzla. The fact that on May 15th last year, when the associations from the Republic of Srpska have for the first time laid down flowers in Tuzla, there were no incidents does not mean that now it is smart to set off, through agitators’ slogans, the fury of Tuzla citizens. On the contrary. Pavic, as a public figure, should show much more political maturity and accountability than the anonymous commentators on internet forums. That way he’d be of more assistance to the local community whose interests he swears on.

In case on May 3rd last year the Sarajevan police had observed more the “wisdom” effused in forums and the “maturity” of the Mayor, Alija Behmen, the families of the killed JNA soldiers wouldn’t then, or this May, pay honour to their killed relatives in the former Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo. Behmen as well talked last year, as Pavic does these days, about political manipulation, opposed the gathering in the centre of Sarajevo, by which, as he said, the aggressor and his victim would be equalized. Even the City Council of Sarajevo had supported Behmen’s decision to prohibit the commemoration of the JNA soldiers, and the session during which the embargo for Dobrovoljacka was confirmed abounded with, to put it mildly, the speech of hatred directed towards the Serb people.

Luckily, the then-Minister of Interior of Sarajevo Canton and the Police Commissioner have decided to do their job observing solely the law, and not the political instructions whoever they may be coming from. The responsible behaviour of the head of the Sarajevan Ministry of Interior had necessitated the commitment of a huge number of police officers, the city had been reminiscent of the times of curfew, but all had passed peacefully. The same scenario was repeated this year as well in Hamdije Kresevljakovica Street, except that, precisely because the politicians didn’t get involved that much by adding extra fuel, there was no counter-gathering of the “Green Berets” and other associations.

The parallel Sarajevo – Prijedor is just one of the illustrative examples as to how much the political leaders can direct the behaviour of the associations of the past war’s victims was not mentioned here either as a counter-point in a story of whose pain is the greater one. The sufferings and traumas experienced are to a greater extent more difficult and more long-lasting than the political speeches on commemorations. They shall, unfortunately, not disappear after al-Fatihas have been recited and after candles have been lit at the crime scene, but they should nevertheless not be worsened by depriving the victims of their right to remembrance and by misusing them for the purpose of increasing one’s own political rating.

The non-involvement of politics with the wounds of the war proved worth of gold two-three days ago in Konjic. For the killed members of Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and the BiH Army, a common memorial stone was laid in spite of the fact that these two armies were in the war against each other. The names of those killed found themselves on one spot as a result of the decision made by their families, who, far away from the public eye, had been preparing for this action for a long time. Once the entire arduous job had been done, again somebody was there to make profit on the parents’ tears. This time it was Zivko Budimir, the President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His presence at the uncovering of the memorial stone to the killed citizens of Konjic was desirable inasmuch as was Pavic’s invitation for peace and coexistence.



Welcome to Omarska, but not now :)

The municipal authorities of Prijedor are not prepared to allow the former concentration camp detainees of Omarska concentration camp to visit that location on May 9th.

The Mayor of Prijedor Marko Pavic considers this to be a “very sensitive date, since the Day of Europe and the Victory Day over Fascism are celebrated on May 9th, and the commemoration and visit to the location of the former concentration camp could lead to serious consequences”.

Pavic stated that he does not support the “political gathering” that the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina has announced for May 9th in Omarska, claiming that “the organizers of the gathering have bad intentions towards Prijedor and that this is contrary to everything which does good to this city”.

 “Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still not giving up on the political gathering that they have scheduled for May 9th. Once again I would like to emphasize that the Victory Day over Fascism is not an appropriate day for holding such a manifestation except if the organizer of the gathering has some kind of connection with those who had plundered Europe 60 years ago”, reads Pavic’s statement.

He also bring forwards the claim that such gathering would represent the “taking back of the national, religious and all other relations to some previous times, which is contrary to the deliberation of the citizens of Prijedor to build a better future and prosperous municipality”.

“This is a well-known action of the people who come to Prijedor to spill out their indignation or hatred on a territory and then depart, leaving the sown evil seed for us to struggle with afterwards trying to overcome it”, says Pavic and adds that he and “most of the citizens of Prijedor” are against holding such gathering, and that he expects that those responsible for this field shall act in line with that attitude.

“Let the organizers, and also those giving their consent, go just three days back and remember the Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo (a.k.a. Sarajevo column case; note by translator) where it was again not possible to reach the very crime scene but only the start of the street, and the same ones who banned the gathering in Dobrovoljacka Street now want to make a political gathering on the territory of our municipality”, stated the Mayor of Prijedor.

The local Federation of Veterans Associations of the People’s Liberation War of Yugoslavia, as well as veterans’ associations, have addressed an open letter to the “Arcelor Mittal Prijedor” mine and to the Ministry of Interior of Republic of Srpska, in which they say that it is “inappropriate and inopportune that the day, which is celebrated in the whole of liberal Europe as the day of victory over fascism, is taken as the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

They say that they are not against visiting of the location where the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina perished in the past war, but that they are for it to be in the same relation and in the same way, and it would be especially good if it be regulated by legal acts as well.

The Association of Concentration Camp Detainees in Bosnia and Herzegovina intends to commemorate the 9th of May as the Day of Concentration Camp Detainees of Bosnia and Herzegovina by visiting the monument to the perished citizens of Kozarac, and also by visiting Omarska afterwards where it is envisaged to have the addresses by the members of the Association, as well as by the members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Zeljko Komsic and Bakir Izetbegovic.

Approval for this gathering was requested from the Ministry of Interior of Republic of Srpska, and also from the “Arcelor Mittal Prijedor” mine which has bought through privatization the buildings of the former concentration camp as well.

Several thousand of detainees have passed through “Omarska”, out of which several hundred were killed in 1992.  

(Source: Federal News Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FENA))


Will Gestures be followed by Actions?

The Royal Castle in Warsaw, located at the entrance to the Warsaw Old Town, was the seat of Polish ruling elites for centuries. This grand architectural monument, built in Mannerist early baroque style, was where the Poles drafted Europe’s second-oldest, but first modern codified national constitution, in May 1791. In its long history, the Royal Castle has been repeatedly ravaged and plundered by Swedish, German and Russian armies.

Polish Baroque Jewel - Zamek Królewski w Warszawie
On December 7, 2010, the Great Assembly Hall of the Royal Castle staged an important event. Surrounded by the statues of Apollo and Minerva, embodying the allegories of Justice and Peace, under the gigantic painting on the ceiling that depicts the Disentanglement of Chaos, the crème de la crème of international figures from the fields of politics and science gathered to celebrate an historical event that took place forty years ago. This time Egon Bahr, former Federal Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the German Social Democrats, Bronisław Komorowski, Polish President, political activists and other guests got together to analyze the past and discuss the perspectives for the future. To hold such an event in Warsaw was considered unthinkable forty years ago but over the decades it has become a commonplace.

40 years after - Panel discussions at Great Assembly Hall


From 1939 to 1945, during the Nazi occupation of Poland, close to six million Poles were killed and the country fell into ruins. After the war, in retaliation, Poland responded by expelling Germans from the country, which additionally strained bilateral relations. During the time of the Cold War, the Soviet Union installed Communist government in East Germany, and Poland became politically connected through the membership in the Warsaw Pact. Polish Communist propaganda was therefore quite positive towards the reconciliation with the East German allies and, intrinsically, utterly negative towards Germans from the West.

German Wehrmacht troops during the Warsaw Uprising, 1944

The relations between Western Germany and Poland in the mid-1960s were strained in every meaning of the word. Nevertheless, gestures that followed triggered the avalanche of change. Everyone knew the reconciliation would be a long and fragile process. On November 18, 1965, Polish bishops, led by Bolesław Kominek, sent a pastoral letter to their Catholic and Protestant German fellows. The letter was an invitation to the 1000 Year Anniversary Celebrations of Poland's Christianization. This groundbreaking act marked the beginning of a new era in relations between Germany and Poland. The letter caused a strong reaction by the Communist authorities, which infringed any further attempts by a severe, state-organized anti-church campaign from 1965, but the process of reconciliation could no longer be stopped. Several years later, on December 7, 1970, in an effort to ease tensions, German Chancellor Willy Brandt laid a wreath at the foot of a memorial honoring the Jewish people killed during the failed Warsaw Uprising of 1944. Unexpectedly and spontaneously, Brandt fell to his knees in silence. Brandt’s gesture was a striking symbol of reconciliation between the two countries. The Treaty of Warsaw signed that day gave this event a political foundation and initiated political cooperation between the two countries on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

Willy Brandt’s monumental Kniefall von Warschau

Willy Brandt succeeded to surprise everyone. Polish Communists were astonished, Polish intellectuals honored, yet the Polish media dominated by the regime did not publish the photographs of the kneeling German Chancellor. He was widely praised in the West and was awarded the Man of the Year by the Time magazine. But back home, in Germany, the Chancellor became an object of hatred to part of the population. Brandt received many anonymous letters saying that he should be hanged or pinned against wall because of the gesture he made. According to the opinion polls in Germany at the time, the majority felt that his humility was exaggerated. At the same time, Bonn recognized the Western Polish post-Second World War border, the line along the rivers Oder and Neisse. Brandt’s political opponents and considerable part of the population understood this as a gesture of treason and a direct slap in the face to millions of displaced Germans who had left the former Eastern Regions. Yet Willy Brandt saw it as “a symbol for politics and action… that created a new image of Germans. This is the only normal thing I can think of doing in Poland.” In 1971 Willy Brandt received the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the only German that received the award in the post-war period. During the panel discussion celebrating 40th anniversary of the German-Polish reconciliation, former German Foreign Minister Prof. Dr. Adam Daniel Rotfeld said: “Willy Brandt was a very special person. I keep meeting politicians, and nowadays they think politics are all about cynicism. This is not the main thing; you have to show human side.”

Since then, the two countries signed treaties, created economic partnerships and cultural and educational exchanges in the coming decades. It is important to note that the tempo of their socio-economic cooperation significantly increased after the fall of Communism in 1989 and reached its peak when Poland became NATO and the EU member state. December 1991 marked a milestone in Polish-German relations when the parliaments of both countries ratified a treaty of friendship and cooperation. Warsaw saw Germany as Poland's key to integration into the West. In turn, Berlin considered Poland the gateway to vast economic opportunities in the East.

Yet the process has not been as smooth. Despite many positive signs of a lasting reconciliation between Germany and Poland many Poles in 1990’s remained suspicious of their powerful western neighbor. Reconciliation is time consuming process and in the case of Germany and Poland primarily has required a consistent exchange of top-down gestures which in return produced fertile ground for rapprochement among general populations.


The results of the 2010 polling among Poles on the German – Polish bilateral relations are in favor of the progress achieved: almost 70 % of Poles have nothing against a German living permanently in Poland, obtaining Polish citizenship, holding a high office or even having German daughter and/or son in law. The perception about Poles also changed in Germany in the last several years, and Polish people are increasingly associated with diligence and tolerance.

And the process is still ongoing…

Although the scale of atrocities and political background of the Polish Second Word War experience and the 1990s Yugoslav wars differentiate significantly, they still share the universal notion of human suffering. Destruction, killings, rape, hatred, and sorrow were present on the streets of the Warsaw Ghetto, woods around Srebrenica, stables in the village of Križančevo and in Osijek homes.

Serb paramilitary troops in Bijeljina, 1992

The reconciliation process among the states of former Yugoslavia is in its infancy stages and we can see by comparison that reconciliation between the populations of Germany and Poland also took time, efforts, good politics and wise people. Reconciliation is time consuming, politically heavy, socially controversial process of everlasting dilemmas. It takes political dynamics to reconcile and look into the future, but also economic, educational, and cultural partnerships that now exist between Germany and Poland. Today there are 6,000 mixed German-Polish marriages, 650 cities from both countries signed cooperative agreements, Germans are listed in top three countries when it comes to foreign direct investment in Poland and 50,000 German and Polish students are taking part in academic exchange programs. This is the result of forty years of hard work which has not ceased but is constantly progressing and being upgraded.


Year 2010 and 40th anniversary of Brant’s “knee fall” was marked by the series of very significant political gestures in the Balkans. Can the countries of the former Yugoslavia learn from the Polish-German reconciliation experience after the Second World War? Public apologies by high officials do make a difference and send a positive signal to all others, but they must be followed by concrete actions, economic cooperation, cultural interaction and other incentives that harmonized Germans and Poles at the time.

We certainly believe that the region should move into this direction, showing that political stability is improving.

See also other publications of Think Tank Populari at

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