CM . . .
. Volume XII Number 18 . . . .May 12, 2006
The Bosnian War of 1992-1995 caused the deaths of more than 200,000 people and the displacement of nearly 2,000,000. In simplified terms, the war was the result the long break-up of Yugoslavia, a state created at the end of World War II under the leadership of Yosip Broz Tito. When he died in 1980, different nationalist and political forces, which Tito had suppressed, were able to rally support under ethnic and religious banners. Slobodan Milosevic, the leader of Serbia, among others, was later indicted for genocidal crimes in Bosnia. Unrepentant, he died recently in The Hague before his trial could be completed.
Which side is responsible for the war probably depends on who is speaking. A generally accepted Western version (and this may be opening a discussion) is that Serbia invaded the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and began a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Muslim Bosnians. They are accused of forcing people into concentration camps, mass slaughter - such as the one that occurred in Srebrenica, where nearly 8000 men and boys were murdered, and the deliberate mass rape of Muslim women to "breed out" their ethnic strain.
These were the events that destroyed the childhood of Nadja Halilbegovich, a happy 12-year-old in Sarajevo when the war began. She, her parents and brother spent the next three years trying to survive and maintain some degree of normalcy in their lives as they dodged snipers' bullets and sought shelter from bombs. Nadja began a diary to record events and confide her feelings as insanity swirled around her. She has published her diary to raise awareness about the devastation that war creates, that innocent civilians form the greatest number of victims and to encourage youth to work for peace. Her intention is to appeal to peoples' humanity, and in doing so, she refuses to lay blame and identify sides in the conflict. Her sorrow is the number of people who died unnecessarily and the destruction of the beautiful and historic city of Sarajevo that had been a jewel on the Adriatic.
No, that is not the common dream of us all. There are some people who do not care about peace and tolerance. They care about power, accumulating land or riches. They do not mind seeing others suffer. They enjoy whipping up prejudices and conflict. It's a sad fact, as World War II proved, as the genocides and wars that have occurred since the Bosnian War have demonstrated. These people need restricting. The United Nations and regional organizations were established to take steps to prevent these people or groups from accomplishing their aims. Who needs to be restricted, how they should be restricted and who does the policing are all issues for debate. But it is naïve to pretend that peace can emerge without identifying issues, leaders or their motives.
Recommended with reservations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.