Tag Archives: Bosnia

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” 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!)

35 Comments

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

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

A reply to genocide deniers.

There are basically two kinds of genocide deniers:

Those for whom the existence of a genocide becomes a taboo, which allows them to live in peace with their good conscience, by pretending to believe in something that they know it is a falsification of truth. They know, they just don’t admit it, until, after a certain time, they interiorize the fake version as if it was not fake. I have found a lot of people like that in Serbia and among serbs who live abroad, and it is sometimes heartbreaking to see people that try to live a decent life and to behave according to high moral standards, people whom anybody could call good people, supporting through their silence, the most immoral of all human actions and its perpetrators. If you happen to tackle the subject, they will then try to relativise it, but with a clear discomfort, or maybe they will just say that they don’t want to talk about it. Usually there is a tacit agreement not to talk about the taboo issue, and I never take the initiative of unveiling the taboo with these people, whom I meet for reasons that are not related to my work. I will write my impressions about these people, as well as about my moral dilemmas towards them in another occasion.

For now I want to focus on the other category of genocide deniers, those who actively contribute to fabricate  and maintain the fake version that is then ‘sold’ to those on the above mentioned category, and to outsiders who are not properly informed, and we cannot expect normal people with no links to the region to be fully aware of what happened.

It has happened to me quite often that people confuse me with those not very well informed people, because I look dumb, and I often play dumb in order to see up to each point people try to manipulate me, so I know their strategies.

At a personal level, these people can be very persuasive. Their aggressiveness can be most clearly perceived when they put comments on blogs or news sites. One of the comments in my post about the case of Hasan Nuhanović against the dutch state highlights precisely this point, by recommending the readers to check the comments on this post published by Julijana Mojsilovic on Balkan Insight.

Here is one of those comments:

(…) To finish. You parrot the Western like that men and BOYS were killed at Srebrenica. As far as I know when someone reaches the age of 18 one is considered a man. Women and children were given safe passage. Even the BBC showed that!

The agressiveness of these comments was properly spotted by other readers, such as the person who then posted this comment:

You are indeed a unique and amazing human being for being able to see the truth in the world for what it is. Many of the posts before me show that clearly many people live in denial of basic facts. They do not know of objective fact-seeking, but rather look for information sources that fit their extremist and ignorant views.


There are abhorrent accusations of Muslim terror and all that in these comments and I am dumbfounded that people can make such baseless facts. There is no use in arguing with you people. The world will embrace Serbia only once more people think like you Julijana
.

Still, for the sake of those not very well informed people who sometimes drop by through their google searches, I am posting the photos of the graves of:

EDIN OSMANOVIĆ, born in 1979.

1995-1979= 16.

OSMAN ALIĆ, born in 1981.

1995-1981= 14.

SADIK HUSEINOVIĆ, born in 1982.

1995-1982= 13.

I took these photos myself in Potocari, in 11 July 2008. I don’t feel very comfortable in posting them because after all these are the remains of someone’s son, nephew, cousin, friend, but I feel even more discomfort if I don’t post them.

If the dates and names are not clear enough, please click on the photos.

The Srebrenica Genocide Blog has a parcial list of the children killed in Srebrenica.

And here is a good text on genocide denial, by Vladimir Petrović.

Now, I’ll just post this link there as a comment…

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Filed under Bosnia, Children, Culture of denial, Duty of memory, Genocide, Serbia, Srebrenica, Uncategorized

KARADZIC ARRESTED!

I am so HAPPPPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the news on B92.

Here in BBC.

Serbia seems to be finally chosing the future over the past! From Lisbon, I want to greet my serbian friends!

I have just returned from Belgrade, and there was indeed hope in the air. Something was changing. It’s easy to say so now, of course, but those who know me personally know that was my feeling. But as I was leaving, Jelena and I were talking about the possibility that Mladic could soon be arrested, but none of us thought that Karadzic would ever be arrested. It is an irony that it took SPS to get to power for this to happen, but it makes sense. They are cynicals, not true believers, and they will over-run any obstacle to their goals. Now Mladic and Karadic were the obstacles… Too bad for them.

I called my friends on the phone and we cryed of joy together! I am getting sentimental, what can I do?

It’s amazing how things work when there is political will to do so.

At this very moment I am on the phone with one of my friend from Belgrade. She is watching the news on TV and I am waiting for the latest developments. My friends are receiving SMS messages from all around, people are incredibly happy, and now I need to go to sleep because tomorrow there is plenty of work wayting for me, but how can one sleep with such excitement?

My thoughs now go to the little girl that photographed in Srebrenica. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I will print her photos and send them to her family’s address.

Good night Radovan, sweet dreams and srećni put to Holland!

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Filed under Bosnia, Genocide, Hope, Justice, Serbia, Srebrenica