Category Archives: Bosnia

Duty of Memory: European Parliament declares 11 July “Day of Comemoration of the Srebrenica Genocide”

At 11 July 2009, the commemorative ceremony of the Srebrenica Genocide will be officially celebrated for the first time not only in Bosnia but in all European Union countries.  Today, the European Parliament has declared this date to be the day of Comemoration of the Srebrenica Genocide.

As a citizen of the European Union, I want to welcome this resolution. This is an act that honours the democratic tradition of the European Parliament, the only european institution directly elected by the european citizens themselves. Through this act, the European Parliament is fulfiling its duty of memory and contributing to fight genocide denial and oblivion.

With this decision, the European Parliament is also helping to strengthen the fragile civic-minded civil sector in Serbia, by calling all the countries in the Western Balkans to join the EU countries in this european-wide celebration. dsc_0661

At 11 July 2009, 14 years will have passed since the genocidal massacre of Srebrenica, 17 years since the start of the war in Bosnia and 18 since the start of the break-up of Yugoslavia. During these last three years since I started studying full-time the history, culture and current political situation of the countries of the Former Yugoslavia, I have met a lot of people who shared with me their frustration for the impunity with which the apology of genocide and war crimes was done, and their sense of hopelessness regarding the prevalent state of denial of the majority of the population in Serbia. I have also met people who have expressed their fear that soon all would be forgotten and to those people I have always said the same thing:

The commemoration of traumatic events with political implications, which is one of the ways in which collective memory is established and renewed, obeys to a cycle. Immediately after the events, there is a peak in commemorative acts, but in the subsequent years the need to focus on the future and to face immediate problems provoke a decrease in commemorations. Traumatic evens involve a lot of pain, and it is only natural that people tend, in this phase, to repress those memories. This happens to individuals as well as to societies. The wish to live a normal life and to move forward drives people to neglect their duty of memory.

Anyone who has already experienced the death of a beloved person knows that this corresponds also in a way to the process of mourning. Denial is a mechanism that helps us to cope with our pain for a while. I remember that when my father died, for a while after his funeral it was as if he was travelling, but at a certain moment we had to admit to ourselves that he wasn’t going to come back.

In societies, this phase of decline in the remembrance of traumatic events is much longer than with individuals. The push for a new increase on commemorations and other forms of expression of collective memory, such as through narrative arts like literature and movies depends mainly on a specific group: the generation that lived through the traumatic events in the period of adolescence and early 20s. This is the generation that will most want and need to remember, because it is the one that was most deeply marked by the traumatic events. Older people will try to stick to the memory of how their life was like before it got disrupted and many try to ignore that period as a period when their lives were suspended, and small children were too young to remember more than what they directly experienced, and are more likely to have the most traumatic blocked or to keep only fragmented memories.

The moment when a generation starts getting its voice heard in a society starts when they reach their 30s. This means that, in the case of the genocide in Bosnia, thus moment is now only starting. This is the defining period to establish an enduring collective memory. This period will last more or less 10 years and will reach its peak at 25th anniversary of the events.

Someone who was 16 in 1991 and 20 in 1995 is now reaching his 35. It is thus the generation composed of people of 28-40 year old that most want to get involved and commit themselves in shaping collective memory. Because they are still young people with most of their lives still ahead of them, It is very likely that, if the circumstances so permit, that this generation will try to shape those memories in a way that helps them also move forward, and with them the whole society. In this sense, today’s decision by the European Parliament is a worthy contribution.

I am not citing any source because this is not an academic essay, but those intested should read this book: Collective Memory of Political Events. I am sorry to say that the book is hugely expensive but it’s the best reference in this fiels (other suggestions welcomed). However I didn’t follow the book to write this post, it is the product of  my own impressions observing comemorations of events that happened in my own country and of my experience as a researcher, reading and meeting interesting people.

Bellow you can read the text of the European Parliamente resolution (emphasis added by me to make it easier to go to the point).

P6_TA-PROV(2009)0028
Srebrenica

PE416.145
European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2009 on Srebrenica

The European Parliament,
–    having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2005 on Srebrenica1,
–    having regard to the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, of the other part, signed in Luxembourg on 16 June 2008, and the prospect of EU membership held out to all the countries of the western Balkans at the EU summit in Thessaloniki in 2003,
–    having regard to Rule 103(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A.    whereas in July 1995 the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which was at that time an isolated enclave proclaimed a Protected Zone by a United Nations Security Council Resolution of 16 April 1993, fell into the hands of the Serbian militias led by General Ratko Mladić and under the direction of the then President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić,
B.    whereas, during several days of carnage after the fall of Srebrenica, more than 8 000 Muslim men and boys, who had sought safety in this area under the protection of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), were summarily executed by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Mladić and by paramilitary units, including Serbian irregular police units which had entered Bosnian territory from Serbia; whereas nearly 25 000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported, making this event the biggest war crime to take place in Europe since the end of the Second World War,
C.    whereas this tragedy, declared an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), took place in a UN-proclaimed safe haven, and therefore stands as a symbol of the impotence of the international community to intervene in the conflict and protect the civilian population,
D.    whereas multiple violations of the Geneva Conventions were perpetrated by Bosnian Serb troops against Srebrenica’s civilian population, including deportations of thousands of women, children and elderly people and the rape of a large number of women,
E.    whereas, in spite of the enormous efforts made to date to discover and exhume mass and individual graves and identify the bodies of the victims, the searches conducted until now do not permit a complete reconstruction of the events in and around Srebrenica,
F.    whereas there cannot be real peace without justice and whereas full and unrestricted cooperation with the ICTY remains a basic requirement for further continuation of the process of integration into the EU for the countries of the western Balkans,
G.    whereas General Radislav Krstić of the Bosnian Serb army is the first person found guilty by the ICTY of aiding and abetting the Srebrenica genocide, but whereas the most prominent indicted person, Ratko Mladić, is still at large almost fourteen years after the tragic events, and whereas it is to be welcomed that Radovan Karadžić now has been transferred to the ICTY,
H.    whereas the institutionalisation of a day of remembrance is the best means of paying tribute to the victims of the massacres and sending a clear message to future generations,
1. Commemorates and honours all the victims of the atrocities during the wars in the former Yugoslavia; expresses its condolences to and solidarity with the families of the victims, many of whom are living without final confirmation of the fate of their relatives; recognises that this continuing pain is aggravated by the failure to bring those responsible for these acts to justice;
2.    Calls on the Council and the Commission to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of the Srebrenica-Potočari act of genocide by supporting Parliament’s recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over the EU, and to call on all the countries of the western Balkans to do the same;
3.    Calls for further efforts to bring the remaining fugitives to justice, expresses its full support for the valuable and difficult work of the ICTY and stresses that bringing to justice those responsible for the massacres in and around Srebrenica is an important step towards peace and stability in the region; reiterates in that regard that increased attention needs to be paid to war crimes trials at domestic level;
4.    Stresses the importance of reconciliation as part of the European integration process; emphasises the important role of religious communities, the media and the education system in this process, so that civilians of all ethnicities may overcome the tensions of the past and begin a peaceful and sincere coexistence in the interests of enduring peace, stability and economic growth; urges all countries to make further efforts to come to terms with a difficult and troubled past;
5.    Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments of the Member States, the Government and Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its entities, and the governments and parliaments of the countries of the western Balkans.

dsc_0527

My photos, 11 July 2008.

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Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, EU, Genocide, Srebrenica

Resolution 819, the film: Hasan Nuhanovic’s position.

I have been writing about this film about the genocide in Srebrenica, ‘Resolution 819’, named after the UN Security Council resolution that established Srebrenica as a ‘safe area’. This film sparked a controversy over the way it depicts the role of the international comunity, the United Nations ‘peacekeepers’, and the Dutch Bat, the battalion of UN ‘peacekeepers present in Srebrenica.

The film was awarded the public’s award in the Rome Film Festival, and I put a post here saying that ‘anything that may help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive and reach audiences that are usually not interested in this issue is more than welcome.’.

Then I published an article written by Hasan Nuhanovic, who in 1995 was working for the DutchBat as a translator, and whose entire family was killed after having been handed to the Serbs by the Dutch themselves. Based on some photos he saw of the movie’s scenes, he claimed that the film contained at least one inaccurate scene that would distort the truth about the role of the DutchBat. As it happens that the victims associations were not consulted about this film, Hasan raised  the following question:

“””So who in the end was responsible for including the scene in the film, and why? This is the stereotypical general idea that in any situation of that kind there will always be a guy “with balls” who angered by the behaviour of the Serb soldiers, at least grabs hold of one of them by the collar and then “lets go” when another Serb soldier holds a gun to his head.  Pure Hollywood. If this scene isn’t removed from the film (and that is what I plan to ask the director to do), over the next 50 years it will be telling future generations that the UNPROFOR troops were compelled to behave as they did, there was nothing they could do about it because they were being held “at gun point”, with a pistol held to their head. And so the Republika Srpska troops were able to do what they did because the whole of UNPROFOR, the whole of Europe, the whole of NATO, were being being held “at gun point” as people were being separated and killed. That scene and that individual UNPROFOR officer, will be fixed in the minds of the film’s future audience, who will take away the idea that it is the uncontested truth. And if all the rest of the film consists of a faithful and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, that scene would still be extremely controversial.  Because that scene gives the audience an idea of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and the victims – Europe, represented by UNPROFOR, after all those reiterations of “Never Again”.

No, neither UNPROFOR nor the Dutch, none of them, made even the slightest effort to grab one of the Serbs by the collar, a terrifying thought.  Not one of them. They were servile towards the Serb , they did whatever the Serbs asked them to, and more.  We cannot consent to that scene being shown, no matter how many people might say that it’s just a single scene and the rest of the film shows events in a truthful light.

We do not know that and we cannot offer our absolute trust without having seen the film.””””

(Hasan Nuhanovic’s full article here, in english . The article was originally published in the bosnian newspaper Dani, then translated into italian and published on Osservatorio sui Balcani)

When I read Andrea Rossini’s article on the projection in Sarajevo, I emailed Hasan Nuhanovic to ask him if he could share his opinion with me, and whether the issue had been clarified, as the article implied, or not.

Hasan gave me his position and authorized me to paraphrase him here on my blog, and that’s what I’ll go right now.

For Hasan Nuhanovic, the issue he raised was not clarified. He did meet Giaccomo Battiato, the film director, and discussed the issue of how the film shows the role of the Dutch and the UN during the critical period and why he thinks that  particular scene should not have been included, but this meeting did not clarify what the authors had in mind with such option.

In fact, according to Hasan, the scene where a Duch military tries to protect a Bosniak woman  is not the only inaccurate scene in the film. The entire part regarding the role of Karremans does not match what happened in reality.

He points out that the main reason why the film has been welcomed  rather than challenged is primarily because politicians and ordinary people aren’t clear about what actually happened at Srebrenica and the complicity of the UN/Dutch would be incomprehensible to a lot of people who did not experience it – and it still is incomprehenisble.  Even most Bosniaks, who understand the enormity of the genocide, don’t necessarily understand the the reality of the betrayal that occurred. Thus, the inaccuracies in the film are perceived as mere details, concessions that are easily accepted.

The film is highly critical of the Bosnian Serbs, and, because of that, it is being welcomed among Bosniaks, while the importance of the inaccurate scenes regarding the role of the DutchBat and the United Nations is downplayed or ignored. Behind this logic, Hasan claims, is a mind-set that leads Bosnians to adopt the attitude that one should not  look a gift horse in the mouth.

Such attitude, which he refuses to accept, is, in part, politically motivated, but mostly due to the fact that many people don’t understand or refuse to see up to which point the UN and the Dutch became complicit in the Srebrenica genocide, this despite all the books that have been written, including his own (Under the UN Flag, the International Community and the Srebrenica Genocide),  the documentaries that have been made, and the legal action against the UN and the Dutch state.

Hasan also raises the more general question of how a traumatic  historical event should be portrayed in cinema, and what should be the involvement of the survivors and witnesses. The problem regarding this film is that it is not a work of fiction. Although it is not a documentary, it is a film that is perceived by the public as a reconstruction. However, the director made the choice to mix fictional events with real events, in a way that creates a bias in the perception of the behaviour of important elements involved in the real events. Hasan criticizes the ambiguity of such option and the decision not to consult the victims.

The question of what did the authors had in mind is still not answered, and the position that we should not look a gift horse in the mouth is one that Hasan Nuhanovic rejects.

Aditional note:

Among traumatic historical events, the experience of genocide is one that only victims fully understand. The lack of understanding from others about the impact of genocide in people’s lives, not only as members of one group, but also as individuals, is something that is part of of the heavy legacy that survivors have to cope with. This is an additional element of suffering for them, which has been widely documented on studies about Jews who survived the Holocaust. There is also a whole body of literature about the ethical implications of the choice of the topic of genocide for films and books. The importance of popular narrative forms such as films and novels for the construction of a collective memory of Historical events is also widely known. The fact that this is the first feature film about Srebrenica only adds responsibility to the authors options.

Thus, it puzzles me that the victims have not been consulted. The issue raised by Hassan Nuhanovic should not be seen as a question of detail. There is a strict ethical code that people who choose to work on the issue of genocide are obliged to observe. Instead of making one more film for entertainment, the authors chose a sensitive topic, they should be aware of its implications.

I am looking forward to watching the movie, and then I’ll try to post on this again.

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Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Srebrenica

Resolution 819, the film: article on its projection in Sarajevo

I have already written three posts about the film Resolution 819, about the genocidal massacre of Srebrenica, but i’m not satisfied, so today I’m posting two more.

I’ve been googling searching the keywords ‘Resolution 819’, and I came to the conclusion that there is hardly anything relevant written in english and available online about this film. I’m not surprised, this is the problem with european cinema, national boundaries are hard to cross.

There are some more materials in French, because it turns out that this film has already passed on french TV Canal Plus on 27 October 2008 , but nothing relevant in english, at least nothing that I could find.

So, I think it’s useful to provide both the regular readers and those who come here through google searches with a more extended excerpt of the article published on Osservatorio sui Balcani by Andrea Rossini, who covered the projection of the film in Sarajevo. The article also adresses the issue raised by Hasan Nuhanovic, and incudes a small interview with the director.

I’m posting most of the article except for the journalist personal considerations, not that they are not relevant, but because it would make the post too long.

In another post I’m giving Hasan Nihanovic’s own opinion about this film, now that he has already watched it.

Sarajevo 819

04/12/2008

Author: Andrea Rossini, published originally in italian in Osservatorio sui Balcani.

Translated by Owen Beith (thanks, Owen!)

The Sarajevo premiere of Resolution 819, a French film about the massacre at Srebrenica by Italian director Giacomo Battiato.
Cinema, history and the construction of the past.
The public’s reaction, the director’s comments.

“I am a bit concerned about the screening tomorrow [Wednesday].  I have come here from abroad to talk about their history. I was very motivated and I made this film in a spirit of absolute honesty. But I don’t know what the reaction here might be …”

The anxiety that Resolution 819’s director Giacomo Battiato had confided to us the evening before the film’s premiere in Sarajevo disappeared after an hour and a half.  The audience in the People’s Theatre watched the screening in almost religious silence.  In the auditorium were survivors, relatives of the victims – the women of Srebrenica.  Women who had been there in July 1995.  They watched the cinematic reconstruction of the killings in anguished amazement. The story of the fall of the enclave was accurately recounted.  There was tentative applause as the closing credits began to roll, which slowly built to an ovation. Amor Mašović, a man who has dedicated his life to searching for the missing, rose to his feet in the centre of the auditorium and invited everybody around him to do likewise – Nataša Kandić, Florence Hartmann, the anthropologist Ewa Klonowoski and many others who over the years have played their part in the search for the truth about Srebrenica.  Finally Giacomo Battiato returned to the stage and modestly expressed his personal gratitude to the Sarajevo audience.

The previous evening the director had explained his motivation to journalists: “I decided to make this film for two reasons. There have been some excellent documentaries made about  Srebrenica, but a film speaks to the emotions and allows you to reach a lot more people.  I wanted to tell a story that was not just about the suffering of the Bosniaks but also about the passivity of the international community, and the feeling of guilt this could have been allowed to happen.  At the same time, though, I wanted to show something positive as well, the story of a French investigator [Jean René Ruez], and how so many people have contributed to the work of trying to establish the truth and bring the criminals to justice.”

The screening was prefaced by a controversy raised by Hasan Nuhanović, the United Nations interpreter whose family died at Srebrenica and who eventually decided to take legal action against the Dutch government for its failure to protect them.  In an article for the weekly journal Dani, Nuhanović told of his confusion after seeing a shot from the film showing one of the [U.N.] Blue Helmets clashing with a Serb soldier.  Nothing like that ever happened at Srebrenica, Nuhanović maintained, expressing his hope that the film would not distort history by exculpating the United Nations.  The confusion was cleared up after Nuhanović and Battiato met here in Sarajevo.  Apart from this episode the film’s stance is unambiguous, the message that Resolution 819 tells about the role of the international community is very clear. The situation is described in merciless detail, starting with the desperate telephone calls made by the Dutch commandant at Srebrenica (Karremans) to the United Nations general in Zagreb (Janvier), who refuses to order air strikes. The Dutch soldiers then hand over uniforms and equipment to the Serbs, who carry out killings disguised as Blue Helmets. This is precisely the scenario that the scene that inspired Nuhanović’s article describes: a Dutch officer just for a moment ceases to be a soldier and reacts as an ordinary human being to a violent assault on a girl.  And then almost immediately the soldier resumes the role that Dutchbat was assigned at Srebrenica in the summer of ’95, ordered to do nothing.  The film is very hard on the international community.  In a subsequent scene filmed at an imaginary road block in post-Dayton Bosnia, American soldiers allow a convoy of cars with the wanted Radovan Karadžić on board to pass through, on the grounds that “it’s better to avoid problems.”

We met Giacomo Battiato ahead of the film’s premiere before a Bosnian audience, fresh from its triumph at the Rome Festival.  “If anyone had wanted to strike a bet with me I’d have lost”, he told us.  “I never dreamed we’d win in Rome. The fact that the public voted for the film astonished me, it meant that the message had been received loud and clear.”

What is the reason, in your opinion?

It is a story about pain, and the sharing of pain, and along with the pain a sense of guilt that we experience when we discover that while we were enjoying ourselves on the beach, only a few kilometres away something unimaginable was taking place.

Italy knows nothing about Srebrenica?

Very little, and very superficially.  I was astonished by the response of the media after the film won the prize in Rome. The newspapers began to talk about Srebrenica, people said to me “but I knew nothing about all that, but it’s true, so how is it possible?”

(…)

Previous posts on ‘Resolution 819′ on Café Turco:

History as written by other people, the transation of Hasan Nuhhanovic’s article  Drugi pišu našu historiju, published on the newspaper Dani (thanks, Owen, for the translation) (24/11/2008)

Film ‘Resolution 819′ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inaccurate scene that falsifies the truth, where I react to Hasan Nuhanovic’s article. (21/11/2008)

Film ‘Resoultion 819′ about the genocide in Srebrenica wins highest award at the Rome Film Festival. (1/11/2008)

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Filed under Bosnia, Srebrenica

Some texts on Islamic communities in Bosnia, Sandjak and Kosovo

One of the biggest problems for someone interested in understanding the region of the former Yugoslavia is how to assess the credibility of the sources available. This is so even for researchers and scholars, but even more for average citizens who take some of their limited free time to look through the internet for articles and documents that may help them to go deeper than the small articles on news sites.

I remember the case of a blog in portuguese that I used to read, and whose author I appreciated and regarded as a serious, honest and intelligent person (I still do, but I am now more aware of his prejudices). This author, an academic with a PhD in Physics, was deeply engaged in the fight for secularism and against religious extremism. His blogging was part of a wider civic engagement which I respect and admire. Unfortunately, his concern regarding radical islam made him prone to Serb nationalist propaganda. When Kosova declared its independence, he published a post claiming that Kosova was a country dominated by radical islam, etc, etc, etc.

I was appalled, not so much for the fact that we didn’t agree on the issue of the Independence of Kosova, but because he was using as his source the Serbian nationalist site Serbianna and was accriticaly replicating a bunch of lies. It stroke me that an intelligent and educated person like him did not bother to take some time to evaluate the reliability of the sources he was using.

The fact is that this blog had a good audience and its readers tended to trust the good judgement of its authors regarding sources, even when they didn’t agree with is opinion. I am not mentioning the blog’s name because it is not relevant, this is not a personal attack, I left my opinion on its comment box, this is just an illustrative case of how difficult it is to fight the dominant prejudices regarding the Balkans and its peoples, and how even reasonable, moderate, educated people can be deceived by propaganda.

I decided to write this post because today I clicked on the wordpress tag “Kosovo” and found a blog written by someone who claims to have lived there, and to know a lot about the region, and there was this text about radical Islam in Bosnia. The post was very bad, and on his link list he had serious resources mixed with nationalist propaganda and genocide denial websites. It has happened to me quite often that people who have spent more time in the region that I did uses that as an argument of authority, and it seemed to be the case also with this blogger.

There is a whole body of literature analysing the impact of travellers accounts on the distortion of the image of contryes considered to be ‘exotic’ and the spread of prejudices about their peoples. Belonging myself to a country whose image suffers a lot because of its perceived ‘exotism’, I am aware of this problem and try not to focus too much on my personal impressions when I am researching and writting. It is not the fact that a person is living for years in, say, Serbia, and speaks serbian, that qualifies that person as an authoritive voice about Serbia. One is entitled to have an opinion and share one’s personal impressions, but the problem is that too often the temptation to lecture about it is impossible to resist, especially among bloggers.

So, today when I read this blog I really felt that it is important to fight this kind of obfuscation, by linking some texts that I think are well researched, balanced and reliable. They were written by Juan Carlos Antunez, a spanish military who has pursued studies on Islam, speaks Bosnian and Arab, and lived and worked until recently in Sarajevo as an international functionary.

Not everybody has to be an expert, but when we want to inform ourselves, the choice of sources is something we must take very seriously. However, for non-experts, it is sometimes hard to find texts that don’t demand much previous knowledge. I think the texts that i’m linking are very accessible even for someone who knows nothing on this issue.

In english:

Wahabism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Published in two parts on the website of the Bosnian Institute. Part One here, Part two here

This paper was written primarily with the goal of providing some basic but accurate information to international functionaries in Bosnia.

An excerpt:

“””

For most International Community (IC) personnel, this is the first time in their careers that they have had to deal with any kind of Islamic issue. Part of the local media, often biased by nationalistic or/and political interests, have tried to present the problem of Wahhabism in B-H as a growing tendency that is a threat to safety and security not only in the country but also in the rest of Europe. These media have used a discourse very similar to that used at the beginning of the 90’s, changing the term ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ by ‘Wahhabism’. On the other hand, media close to the Bosniak establishment have tried to ‘hide’ any evidence of the Wahhabi presence in B-H, or at least to play down the importance of the phenomenon.

Most of the information gathered until now is based on the regurgitation of media or biased spread of rumours without further confirmation. A serious analysis must try to define who is a real follower of Wahhabism, in order to avoid misinterpretations. Only then can proper proposals be developed for stopping the ‘reported’ growing tendency, and reversing it.

This is a paper on the situation of Wahhabism in B-H, intended to represent original thinking about the real picture of the Islamic community in the country and not a ‘regurgitation of open-source wisdom’.

“””

In spanish: published on Athena Intelligence, a spanish research centre on terrorism and armed conflicts, with a particular emphasys on Islamic terrorism.

Presencia yihadista en Bosnia y Herzegovina,Athena Intelligence,  n.2/8 (3/4/2008)

Sandjak: un inestabile región entre Bosnia y Herzegovina y Kosovo, Athena Intelligence, December 2007.

Islamismo radical en Kosovo, Athena Intellingence, n.2/8 (3/4/2008)

Sorry for the non-spanish readers!

I’ll return to this subject and specifically to these articles when I have some time, which will not happen before the new year.

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Filed under Bosnia, Islam, Kosovo, Sandjak, Serbia

Mosque arsoned in Republika Srpska.

INTERNACIONAL-BOSNIA-MEZQUITA

My friend Jasmin Caucevic, from the blog Jasmin’s Heart, asked me to write something about the mosque that was arsoned in the village of Fazlagića Kula, in the east of Bosnia. This village belongs to the territory of the Serb entity of Bosnia, the Republic of Srpska.

The Mosque was set on fire during the night of 7 to 8 December, by ‘coincidence’ the day of Bajram.

The fact is that, if you make a quick google search, you will find other episodes of extremists’ violence in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I have been in Bosnia three times and crossed eastern Bosnia twice by bus, on my way to Sarajevo. On my first trip, last year, I was impressed by the amount of damaged and arsoned houses. I was’t surprised, but still one thing is to read about it or watch it on documentaries, another is to see for myself . The war was over for more than a decade, but still there were so many signs. However, I also saw many newly built or recently restored Mosques. Their reconstruction is part of the efforts to reverse the effects of genocide.

The arson of this Mosque, which had been built in 2003,  after the old one, centuries old, was destroyed during the war, is only the latest on a series of incidents that occur too frequently in ‘Republica of Srpska’ , in areas where displaced people are returning, such as grafitti spraying with racist or threatening messages, vandalism of monuments, threats, assaults, ransacking of returnee’s homes.

In this case, an anonymous  phone call had been made some days ago threatening the president of the local medžlis, saying that someone was going to « massacre the ustaše and the balije and set Fazlagića Kula on fire ».

However, serious as these violent actions may be, they fit a wider pattern.

The Human Rights report of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Sprspka states:

“”””The entity and local authorities in the Republic of Srpska do not engage themselves in facilitation of the repatriation process. The authorities should provide the repatriates with employment, health and social insurance, conditions for education of their children, and the conditions for maintenance of the cultural and religious traditions. Not a single local community in the Republic of Srpska had provided any of these conditions as yet.
Avoidance of responsibilities on the side of the authorities is but a part of the political strategy intended to allow the return of the least possible number of non-Serbian repatriates (Bosnians, Croatians, Rhomanis) to the territory of  the Republic of Srpska, and that strategy seems to be carried out successfully.

For that reason the authorities in the majority of cases tolerate the incidents directed against the repatriates and their assets.
The incidents are usually recorded, but the background of them is not being investigated, nor are the investigations against the perpetrators being initiated.

In certain cases the authorities themselves violate the rights of the repatriates and their proprietary rights, all towards the goal of preventing the repatriation process, or of inducing the repatriates to leave their homes and leave for another entity or another country. “”””

This makes it a lot easier to understand how could such serious incident occur. There are clear signs of impunity towards whoever may want to intimidate the returnees.

Human rights activists are also targeted. In July, Branko Todorovic, Executive Director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska, and his family received death treats:

“””on July 22, 2008, around 2 p.m. an unknown man called the office of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska and said that “huge amounts of money have been given for the assassination of Mr. Branko Todorovic and his family as he has permanently heavily criticised powerful persons from the police and the prosecutors office”. In order to show the seriousness of this threat, the man listed many details and situation showing that he has carefully followed Mr. Todorovic and his family since couple of months.“”””

Branko Todorovic has received similar treats in the past. These are credible treats. In February 2007 Dusko Kondor, the founder and director of the human rights education section of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska was shot dead on 22 February 2007 at the door of his apartment in Bijeljina. His daughter was also injured in the attack.

From these few informations, it is not difficult even for an accidental reader who may not even be able to point Bosnia on a map to realize that the Serb entity of Bosnia is a very oppressive place. Its moderate voices are repressed or even supressed, while relativism and appeasement of serbian nationalist in the West give its radical elements and fake moderates a sense of impunity that leads them to keep the project of Greater Serbia alive, as is the case of the systematic threat of secession by the ‘Republika srpska’ leaders.

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Filed under Bosnia, Genocide, Nationalism, Uncategorized, Violence

Film ‘Resolution 819’ shown in Sarajevo

Two days ago (3 December) the film ‘Resolution 819’ was shown in Sarajevo.

Here is an article on the event, published by Osservatorio sui Balcani (in italian).

Sarajevo 819

According to its author, Andrea Rossini, my fears that the film might misrepresent the role of the UN and the Dutchbat have not been confirmed. Rossini mentions the polemic caused by the article written by Hasan Nuhanovic in the newspaper Dani (translated into italian by Osservatorio sui Balcani and into english from the italian translation here at this blog), saying that ‘the equivoque  was clarified after a meeting between Nuhanovic and Battiato in Sarajevo’.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

La visione di “Risoluzione 819”, del resto, non lascia dubbi, il messaggio rispetto al ruolo della comunità internazionale è molto chiaro. Il sistema viene descritto impietosamente, a partire dai disperati colloqui telefonici del comandante olandese a Srebrenica (Karremans) con il generale delle Nazioni Unite a Zagabria (Janvier), che nega gli interventi aerei.

Here in English (my translation):

The vision of ‘Resolution 819’ does not leave room for doubt, the message regarding the role of the international community is very clear. The system is described with no mercy, starting from the desperate phone conversations between the dutch commander in Srebrenica (Karremans) and the United Nations general in Zagreb (Janvier), who denies an air intervention”.

This perspective is, somehow, confirmed by another person who watched the film, which stated in the comment box of Osservatorio sui Balcani (comment author: provenzan salvan, 05.12.2008 10:08):

ho visto il film l’altra sera. forse non un capolavoro, ma un film utile. (…) temevo sentimentalismi facili, temevo deviazioni “spettacolari” dalla trama, temevo una narrazione molto parziale dei fatti. invece, devo ammettere che la storia di srebrenica e’ li’, e’ nel film che, ricordiamolo, non e’ un documentario (ce ne sono di bellissimi) ma un prodotto che non deve essere “vero”, ma “verosimile”. (…)  il regista ha mostrato la storia di srebrenica, in un modo certo imperfetto e in alcuni punti discutibile, ma non l’ha stravolta o strumentalizzata. magari, altri faranno meglio. o magari no.”

I watched the movie the other evening. it’s probably not a masterpiece, but a useful film. (…) I was afraid of easy sentimentalisms, I feared ‘spectacular’ deviations of the thread, a narration that might be too parcial. On the contrary, I have to admite that the story of Srebrenica is there, it’s on the film, which, let me remind that, is not a documentary (there are excellent) but a product that must not me ‘true’, but ‘likely’. (…) the director has shown the story of Srebrenica, in an imperfect way and in some points questionable, but has not distorted or instrumentalized it maybe others will do better. ir not.

I hope to get other reactions from people who may have watched the film. I’ll post more on this as soon as I have more reactions (it is unlikely that I will have the possibility to watch the film any time soon).

Previous posts on ‘Resolution 819’ on Café Turco:

History as written by other people, the transation of Hasan Nuhhanovic’s article  Drugi pišu našu historiju, published on the newspaper Dani (thanks, Owen, for the translation) (24/11/2008)

Film ‘Resolution 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inaccurate scene that falsifies the truth, where I react to Hasan Nuhanovic’s article. (21/11/2008)

Film ‘Resoultion 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica wins highest award at the Rome Film Festival. (1/11/2008)

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Filed under Art, Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Hope, Nationalism, Srebrenica

HISTORY AS WRITTEN BY OTHER PEOPLE

I am now publishing the full version of the article written by Hasan Nuhanović (thanks Owen, for the translation). Additionally I am also posting the trailer of the Film ‘Resolution 891’.

A few days ahead of its Sarajevo launch, the film “Resolution 819”, a prize-winner in Rome, has provoked controversy in Bosnia Herzegovina.  A survivor of the genocide at Srebrenica, challenges the veracity of some scenes in the film in his article in the weekly Dani.

by Hasan Nuhanović, 14 November 2008, Dani
(original title Drugi pišu našu historiju)

Translated into English from the translation into Italian for Osservatorio Balcani by Maria Elena Franco

Controversy: Does the Rome Festival award-winning film “Resolution 819” give a misleading account of the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica?  “Resolution 819”, a Franco-Polish co-production directed by the renowned Italian Giacomo Battiato, was recently honoured with the audience award at the Rome Film Festival.  It tells the true story of a police officer sent by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to carry out inquiries into the death of 8000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica. The film is due to be launched on 2 December at the People’s Theatre in Sarajevo.  Hasan Nuhanović, an interpreter for the UN forces at Srebrenica who lost his family in July 1995 and has made numerous documentaries about the Srebrenica massacre, maintains that  the film is a historical fabrication.

Ten days ago, on my return from Potočari, where I had been making a documentary with a German television crew (another in a sequence of tens and maybe hundreds of documentaries to date) about what happened at Srebrenica and in the surrounding area in July 1995, I heard that the Italian director had won a prize for his film about the Srebrenica genocide titled “Resolution 819”.  When I saw a photograph  from the film accompanying an article in Avaz, I thought immediately that at long last this was the film we had all been waiting 13 years for.  The shot showed shows a scene from the film with criminals drunk on blood and alcohol seated around a table drinking and feasting themselves on meat just a few metres away from the bodies – corpses piled one on top of one another in front of a building.  That scene reflects exactly accounts of the mass execution of 1500-2000 men and boys that took place around Pilica, Kozluk or Grbavnica, Orahovica and Zvornik.  Those accounts have been provided many times in the course of reconstructing the facts at the trials of members of the of Republika Srpska military and police forces before the Hague Tribunal.  I thought to myself, at last a film made by a director who has chosen not to play softball or pretty things up “to keep the audience happy”.

Accomplices to genocide

While I was agreeably surprised by the news, at the same time I had my reservations and I have to confess I was angry that the film (which it’s clear no-one knew almost anything about before it was shown at the Rome Film Festival) had been made without speaking to eye-witnesses and survivors of the events it portrayed.

For years I have been preoccupied with the idea of making the same kind of film about Srebrenica but none of my efforts have ever got anywhere.  I have spoken to plenty of people in Bosnia Herzegovina and abroad (not to mention important political and cultural figures) and proposed using material already available, for example in books and witness statements, in order to make as accurate as possible of the events into a film, but all to no avail.  Since 1995 I have helped a number of authors of books about the Srebrenica genocide to arrange interviews with individual survivors of the mass executions and trace documents and other materials so as to ensure as complete and accurate an account as possible, setting out the facts of what actually happened.

These books include the American journalist David Rohde’s book “End Game”, published in 1996 (which won him the Pulitzer Prize), and the book by Dutch journalist Frank Westerman, written almost immediately following the event and published under the title “Srebrenica: The Darkest Scenario”.  In 2003 I published my own book, “Under the UN Flag – the international community and the Srebrenica Genocide”; a documented reconstruction of events, including the shameful role played by the international community (UN, Netherlands, NATO and EU).  In truth, “shameful role” is an inaccurate description, because what it actually refers to is their complicity with a crime that has been confirmed as genocide.  So they are accomplices to genocide.

While all through those long years I always believed that one day we would eventually manage to find the money, and by that I mean people willing to finance a film of this kind, I was still afraid that “someone else” would get there ahead of us (by us, I mean we, the survivors), because after fighting for 13 years against people who continue to deny the full truth (and there are plenty of them) I have learned that that there is always some sort mistake that will get past everything – some misapprehension, or to be more precise an incomplete or possibly superficial understanding of what had happened.  Above all I’m referring to the role of what is known as the international community, because however resistant the actual deniers – those Serbs who deny that genocide occurred (in Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and the diaspora), there is even greater resistance among the intellectuals of Western Europe who are either unwilling or unable to contemplate the fact that this so-called international community was an accomplice to genocide.

Reality and the cinema

Searching on the internet for articles about the director Giacomo Battiato’s film “Resolution 819”, I also found a few photographs showing half a dozen or so scenes from the film.  Initially I had the impression that this was a fairly faithful reconstruction, at least as far as those particular scenes were concerned, but then I came across the photograph which caused me to write this article.  In it a tall, good-looking UNPROFOR soldier, beside one of the buses at Potočari with only women and young children on board, is grabbing hold of a Serb officer by the collar while another Serb soldier is pointing a gun at his head.


At first I didn’t understand what this was all about but then I became extremely angry.  A complete fabrication, depicting something that never happened.  In fact it was just what I had always feared, the type of scene that I imagined might have turned up in a film made by someone else, not ourselves.

In the shot you can see an UNPROFOR officer in Dutch army uniform (it has to be said that they’ve paid great attention to detail).  On his head he is wearing the blue beret and around his waist is the belt that his holster and gun would be attached to.  So an image  representation and attitude that would impress the ordinary spectator with no background knowledge.  And this is why!  Here is another hero!  Except this one never existed.  It never happened.

In fact, during those few days in July 1995 none of the soldiers or officers belonging to the Dutch UNPROFOR contingent at Potočari ever wore that uniform outside the base.  And the fact is that they didn’t wear uniform, all the Dutch soldiers who went outside the base (for any reason) wore shorts, T-shirts and blue baseball caps with the UN badge. None of them carried arms because they had been ordered to leave them behind on the base “in order not to provoke the Serbs in any way”.  At the same time all the Dutch soldiers inside the base who had any contact with the 5000-6000 Bosniak refugees were fully equipped with helmets, bulletproof vests and firearms.  It was the Dutch (not the Serbs) who around midday on 13 July 1995, wearing uniforms like the one worn by the actor in the film, ordered all the Bosniaks to leave the UNPROFOR compound and delivered them into the hands of the Serb soldiers who were waiting for them outside the camp gate.  All the boys and young men were forced to leave the base under escort and then killed.

Evidence given in the trial of General Krstić

So the Dutch not only did nothing to prevent this happening but went so far as give the go-ahead for it to happen in the way I have just described and also as set out in detail in my book.  I am willing to give everything I possess without the slightest hesitation to any Dutch soldier or officer who can look me in the eye and tell me that he or any other member of the Dutch battalion behaved in the way shown in the film scene that impelled me to write this article. I will then apolgise for any offence caused to his country by that accusation against in the trial and withdraw it immediately.

When Hayat TV showed a trailer for the film including the scene in question, I got in touch straight away with the Association of Mothers from the Enclaves of Žepa and Srebrenica in Sarajevo to show them the picture of the scene.  They obviously agreed with me without hesitation that this was an absolute fabrication, but they also told me that they along with the Ministry of Culture for the Canton of Sarajevo had been in contact with the director for a number months and had sent him a  letter complimenting him and thanking him and inviting him to hold the launch of the film, with their support, in Bosnia Herzegovina (in Sarajevo, to be precise).

So the Association, unaware of any scenes like the one in question, had presented the director with a blank cheque.  The mothers had complimented him on a film that no-one had yet seen.

Given all that, I am not convinced that the director, the scriptwriters or anyone else involved in deciding to include that scene in the film (out of hundreds and hundreds of other possible scenes) did so with the explicit intention of exonerating UNPROFOR (either the UN or the Dutch), it could have happened by mistake.  But what if that wasn’t the case? As far as I have been able to discover, the film was made in consultation with the French investigator Jean-Rene Ruez, who for years after the war (up until around 2001 or 2002) was head of the ICTY investigative task force responsible for gathering evidence on the ground in Bosnia Herzegovina.  I know Jean-Rene very well, we were friends. About 6-7 years ago he left his investigator’s post with the Prosecutor’s Office at the ICTY, for personal reasons.  At the time he had some private issues to resolve that he believes were due to his preoccupation with Srebrenica.  His health also suffered as a result.  As far as I know, the film, or at least part of it, is about his work. His work has nothing to do in fact with the scene under discussion.  Jean-Rene worked on the reconstruction of the episode which he has frequently had to describe as an expert witness to the judges at The Hague Tribunal hearing the case against General Krstić.

The last word belongs to Tito

So who in the end was responsible for including the scene in the film, and why?  This is the stereotypical general idea that in any situation of that kind there will always be a guy “with balls” who angered by the behaviour of the Serb soldiers, at least grabs hold of one of them by the collar and then “lets go” when another Serb soldier holds a gun to his head.  Pure Hollywood. If this scene isn’t removed from the film (and that is what I plan to ask the director to do), over the next 50 years it will be telling future generations that the UNPROFOR troops were compelled to behave as they did, there was nothing they could do about it because they were being held “at gun point”, with a pistol held to their head. And so the Republika Srpska troops were able to do what they did because the whole of UNPROFOR, the whole of Europe, the whole of NATO, were being being held “at gun point” as people were being separated and killed. That scene and that individual UNPROFOR officer, will be fixed in the minds of the film’s future audience, who will take away the idea that it is the uncontested truth. And if all the rest of the film consists of a faithful and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, that scene would still be extremely controversial.  Because that scene gives the audience an idea of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and the victims – Europe, represented by UNPROFOR, after all those reiterations of “Never Again”.

No, neither UNPROFOR nor the Dutch, none of them, made even the slightest effort to grab one of the Serbs by the collar, a terrifying thought.  Not one of them. They were servile towards the Serb , they did whatever the Serbs asked them to, and more.  We cannot consent to that scene being shown, no matter how many people might say that it’s just a single scene and the rest of the film shows events in a truthful light.

We do not know that and we cannot offer our absolute trust without having seen the film. When one day I spoke to a friend about how angry I felt about the scene, he told me this story.  After the filming of “Sutjeska” had been completed, Tito invited his surviving advisers to view the film before it was shown on general release.  After watching the film they complained that the film didn’t show even 1% of what had happened. Tito said to them, I know that, but let people at least see that 1%.

This time it is not Tito saying so, and it’s not even a matter of how much of that happened is in the film, but whether it misrepresents specific events.

I was in Paris when I happened to bump into Danis Tanović, around the time that his film had been nominated for an Oscar and I had already seen it.  I was there for a meeting the following day with members of the French Parliamentary Commission that was about to publish its report on Srebrenica (which largely and unjustifiably let the French off the hook).  I recognised Danis because he had been a fellow student at the Engineering Faculty in Sarajevo in 1988.  I didn’t even know it was the same Danis.  We shook hands, I made a few comments about his film and I suggested we might work together on the idea of a film about Srebrenica. But he said that it was a project that he wouldn’t dare take on.  I then wrote some articles about his film and I remember telling him then that I had noted down some comments on his film, because it hadn’t included scenes that showed the true nature of the war in Bosnia Herzegovina (destroyed villages, genocide, mass killings, refugees).   Danis replied: “You had your war, I’ve made my film about my war, as I saw it”.

Who started the war?

I hope that “Resolution 819” is not going to leave the issue unresolved in the way Tanović’s film did.  Tanović’s film fails to answer the question although it does the raise the issue which remains at the heart of the film (whatever the director may have intended). And can we be allowed to offer an answer to that question?  Or even here do we require a national consensus, as provided for by the Constitution of Bosnia Herzegovina?  As if the answer to that question could ever justify the camps, the mass killings, the violence and other unimaginable atrocities, and genocide.

I sincerely hope that Giacomo Battiato’s film contains just that one controversial scene but it must be removed before the film goes out on official release.

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Filed under Art, Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Srebrenica

Film ‘Resolution 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inacurate scene that falsifies the truth

Some days ago, I published a post about a filme called ‘Resolution 819’. The film had just been awarded at the Rome Film Festival.

Although I hadn’t seem the film, I though that it should be good news.My point then was that:

Anything that may help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive and reach audiences that are usually not interested in this issue is more than welcome.

Ever since, everyday people get to this post through search engines with the keywords Resolution 819.
Now, a deep shadow appears over this film, which makes me regret having promoted it in my blog. The film contains at least one scene that represents a falsification of the true, and this means the film cannot help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive, but rather that it may be an extra element to its abuse and falsification. I am sorry that I allowed myself to be carried away and not cautious enough, and I apologise that I mislead my readers.

Hasan Nuhanovic, the UN translator whose family was handed to the serbs by the Dutch UN peacekeepers, has just published an article on the bosnian newspaper Dani, where he states that the film contains at least a scene that falsifies the truth. The article is available for subscribers in bosnian here and for free in the site Osservatorio sui balcani. Since the english language is more widely known than italian, I decided to translate the article and I am posting now an excerpt. Please bear in mind that this is the translation of a translation: I am not a translator and I apologise for the mistakes, but I tried to be as accurate as possible. I hope all of those who know italian read the full version.

Hasan Nuhadovic has not yet watched the film, but he has seen this photo:
509_piccola2

(you can see the photo enlarged by going to the Festival site here and clicking on the photo on the right side)

UPDATE: Here is the trailer, please take a look. The fact that this scene is considered important enough to appear at the trailer give is a worrying sign. At minute 1.10 you can also see a serb soldier bullying duch soldiers and taking the blue helmet from one of them.

“At first, I didn’t understand what it was about, but then I felt terribly angry, It as a real falsification of history, the representation of something that never happened. In fact, this is what I always feared, one of these scenes that I thought could happen in a film made by others an not by us.
In the photo-film scene you can see a UNPROFOR official wearing the uniform of the dutch army (it must be recognized that the film makers have shown great care for the details). In his head a blue beret, and around his waist a belt where he should have his gun. Thus it is an image that for an average spectator transmits respect. And here is his reasoning! He perceives him as an hero! But the problem is that it never existed. This has never happened.
In fact, in those days in July 1995, neither soldiers, nor UNPROFOR officers in Potočari, thus members of the dutchbat, ever wore such uniform outside the base. And this is not about the uniform, but about the fact that all, but really all the dutch that were outside the base (for any reson) were wearing shorts, t-shirt and blue baseball caps with the UN emblem. None was armed because they had received the order to leave the weapon at the base ‘not to provoke the serbs in any way’. At the same time, all the dutch militaryat, inside the base were in contact with the 5000-6000 bosniak refugees were armed, with helmets, bullet proof vests and fire weapons. Thus, the dutch (and not the serbs) in 13 July 1995, around noon, dressed in uniforms like the one the actor in the film, forced the bosniaks to leave the UNPROFOR base and handed them to the hands of the serbs that were waiting for them at the entrance of the camp. All the boys and young men were driven out and then killed.
In the face of this, not only the dutch didn’t do anything to avoid it, but they even allowed that it happened in this way and in others that I describe in detail in my book. (…)”

Hasan Nuhanovic contacted the Association of Mothers from the enclaves of Zepa and Srebrenica to show them the photo, and they joined him in his conclusion that here at stake is a falsification of History. But they also informed him that they, along with the Ministry of Culture of the Canton of Sarajevo, they had already sent a message to the film maker greeting him and thanking him, and inviting him to show the film, under their sponsorship, on an opening in Bosnia and Hercegovina (more precisely in Sarajevo).
“In this way, the Association, not knowing about scenes like this, gave the film director a blank check, in fact the mothers congratulated themselves for a film that non of us has watched yet.”
(…)
“Then, who put the contested scene in the film and why? This is a stereotype, the general though that in such situation there is always a young man ‘with balls’ that, well, frustrated with the behaviour of the serb military, if nothing else, will take one by his collar and then ‘drops the prey’ when another serb soldier pints him a gut at his head. This is just like Hollywood. This scene, if it is not eliminated from the film (and I it is what i will ask the film director), in the next 50 year will tell the generations to come that will watch it that the UNPROFOR men were constrained to do certain things, meaning that they couldn’t do anything because the were ‘at gun point’ (in english in the original). So, the forces of Republika Srpska because the whole UNPROFOR, all Europe, all Nato, were taken ‘at gun point’. In this scene, this UNPROFOR official, will be imprinted in the minds of the future viewers,, who will take it as indisputable truth. And even if the rest of the film showed a precise and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, this scene will remain ecceptionaly controversial. Because through this scene the viewer obtains an image of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and towards the victims- Europe personified in UNPROFOR, after the so much repeated ‘never again’.
No, neither the UNPROFOR men, nor the dutch, no one of them had even the smallest gesture to grab a Serb through his neck. None of them. They were servile with the Serbs, they did everything the serbs told them, and even more than they were told. We cannot allow that this scene is shown with our consent, even if someone may say: this is just one scene, the rest of the film shows the events in a truthful way.
This we don’t know and cannot give anyone our trust before we watch the film
.”

(this is an excerpt, the article is much more extended and addresses relevant questions).

UPDATE: A full translation of this article is now published in this blog, here (History as Written by Others). In case you want to quote it, please use the text published on the full version.

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Film “Resolution 819” about the Genocide in Srebrenica wins highest award at the Rome Film Festival!

UPDATE:

This post has been edited on 20 November following new data regarding this film. The parts which I no longer support, such as when I declared were erased, not to mislead the readers. Please go to this post for an explanation.

Yesterday the film “Resolution 819”, directed by Giacommo Battiato, was awarded the Golden Marc’Aurelio Audience Award for Best Film at the Rome Film Festival.

Here’s the synopsis:

“United Nations Resolution 819 guaranteed the safety and protection of the Muslim populations Srebrenica, Bosnia. In July 1995, General Mladic’s Bosnian Serb soldiers took the protected area, under the eyes of the completely passive UN troops. Thousands were deported, of which 8000, mostly old people and children, completely disappeared. The International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague sent volunteer French investigator Jacques Calvez to find out what really happened to those people. It is a journey into hell. Jacques faces many kinds of adversity in a country still at war and, alone from the start, is met with hatred and sorrow. He will fight for years to find the mass graves and prove that innocent men were tortured and killed by the criminals lead by Karadzic and Mladic.”
Anything that may help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive and reach audiences that are usually not interested in this issue is more than welcome. It is a know fact that serbian cinema has been widely used as a very effective tool of nationalist propaganda, both for the serbian public and for the foreign audience. It is very important that other films appear and get shown that fight such propaganda and it is encouraging to see that films like this receiving awards.

Two .pdf files with synopsis etc. (in French) can be downloaded from Canal+’s Swiss website:
http://www.canalplus.ch/ – search on “Resolution 819″ (thanks, Owen!).

The Srebrenica Genocide Blog has a post analysing the UN Resolution 819.(thanks, Daniel!)

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Especially for Anais

Only today I have managed to take 15 minutes to watch Allan Little’s report for Newsnight “Karadzic broken Bosnia endures”.

Meanwhile I have been in Bosnia myself, and, although it was a brief visit, it was long enough for me to recognize the kind of environment that the report brilliantly captures.

I usually travel alone, but on this trip I had the company of my lovely niece Anais. In fact, she was the reason I decided to travel to Bosnia. My intention was to go to Kosova instead, but I wanted to show her Sarajevo, because knowing her and knowing the city, I had the feeling that the two would match.

We had a great time there. The weather was very pleasant, which allowed us to take nice photos, and we were very lucky to find a place to sleep in a private home, where the owner treated us like princesses and made us the most delicious coffee we had ever drunk. I introduced her to burek (I love burek) and we also had the best pizza I have eaten in years.

Here’s Anais, looking at a group of Japanese tourists…

I am very glad we went there. She loved Sarajevo and its people, but, thanks to the persons we met, whose conversation with me she attentivelly followed, she got the chance to have a glimpse on the current political and social problems Bosnia is facing (or refusing to face). I absolutely wanted to avoid passing her an essentialized image of Sarajevo and Bosnia.

Anais was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the city and the warmth of its people,  but, in the same measure, shocked with the extent of destruction caused by the siege. When you arrive in Sarajevo by bus from Belgrade, you get the chance to have a good notion on the size of the city, and the fact that the bus stop is in the suburbs means that the postcard-like image of the centre of Sarajevo will not be the only one you will take with you after you leave. Everywhere she looked, the bullet holes could be seen. She had never seen anything like that. At a certain moment we passed through a souvenir shop and she saw a mug with the mascot of the 1984 Olimpic Games. It was then that she realized what the siege had meant. She looked at me and she said, “really, this is as if Lyon (her home city) had been besieged”. I though that was a good comparison.

Then, lots of questions, starting by the classical one, why didn’t the serbs manage to destroy Sarajevo…

Reality is sometimes so absurd that it hard to explain…

I tried to answer her questions and I briefly explained her in what my research consists of, but I tried to refrain myself because I think it’s best for her to have her own perspective than to simply absorb mine.

After we returned to Belgrade, I tried to give her some materials for her to have some information, but I didn’t want to overburden her.

So, when I watched this report, I immediately realized that it had what I was looking for. The environment portrayed in the report is clearly recognizable to anyone who has already crossed ‘Republika Srpska’.

I am sure she will watch it and I hope some other readers will too.

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Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, War