TELEPHONE CONNECTIONS TO THE WORLD CUT OFF // 05. 1992.
HAJRUDIN SUMAN // DIRECTOR OF THE PTT COMPANY
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

May 1992

Hajrudin Suman
Director of the PTT Company
TELEPHONE CONNECTIONS TO THE WORLD CUT OFF

‘At May 2 the former director of Post office, Cedo Tepavcevic led an organized attack on it. And 18-19, there was a complete telecommunications blackout. I can tell you for sure that was the reason, because before that the Mojmilo battle took place which practically freed the Mojmilo Reservoir and which practically unblocked the way to Dobrinja. With this considering that Dobrinja had been intended for the main administrative center of Great Serbia when they realized they couldn’t capture it then they blocked all Telecommunications and started on the destruction of the city.’

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MAY 1992


• At a peace conference in Lisbon, the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, agrees to talks on territorial demarcation. The President of the EC, Jose Cutileiro, offers a map drawn up by EC experts on the basis of the three constitutent peoples of BiH.
• In Sarajevo, 17,000 refugees from various towns settle in the city. They have either been expelled from their homes, or their houses or apartments have been destroyed by shells.


• Sarajevo is under siege. The circle around the city closes, with entrenched tanks, mortars, snipers and cannons.
• As the JNA withdraws from its Command headquaters over Skenderija bridge conflict erupts. Self-organized defenders of the city attack the JNA convoy.
• After returning from Lisbon and landing at Sarajevo airport, the JNA holds captive the President of the Presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, his daughter who had accompanied him, as well as the leader of the SDP, Zlatko Lagumdzija. They are released later after long exchange negotiations with the assistance of UN Commander Louis Mackenzie.
• Juka Prazina, a city paramilitary unit leader, becomes Commander of Special Units of MUP BiH.


• Members of the Presidency of BiH, Stjepan Kljujic and Fikret Abdic, sign a ceasefire agreement for the lifting of the blockade of the JNA barracks.
• In the Old City, at the entrance to Sarajevo, an old wooden barricade is set up.


• The JNA dismisses Blagoje Adzic and relieves from duty the Chief Commander of the sector of Sarajevo, Milutin Kukanjac.
• The Sarajevo neighborhood of Dobrinja is surrounded by SDS troops. SDS terrorists give an ultimatum to the defenders of Dobrinja. The SDS sets up a barricade with armed soldiers between the neighborhoods of Dobrinja and Mojmilo.


• Within the blockaded JNA barricades conflicts erupt between individual soldiers.
• Gunfire from the barracks at vehicles and passersby. The area around the barracks becomes lethally dangerous.


• The JNA leaves, destroying everything in their path.
• Fighting goes on around the JNA barracks.
• Transmissions halted of the independent news program “Yutel.”


• With the shelling of the Central Post Office from the surrounding hills by Serb paramilitary groups, 40,000 telephone lines are scorched. The reserve Telephone Exchange on Obala (bank of the Miljacka river) is mined. Sabotage is carried out by specialists from Nis.
• Street fighting goes on in different parts of the city.


• The Tobacco Factory in Sarajevo is burned after being hit by firebombs.
• Urban fighting goes on in Pofalici between Serb units and the city’s defenders. The defenders liberate this neighborhood.
• The Headquarters of the UN peacekeeping force in Sarajevo is evacuated.


• The Presidency of BiH sets May 19 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the JNA.
• In Ilidza, a convoy leaving the city with 5,000 women and children is stopped by SDS troops.


• The agreement on the confederation of Bosnia and Croatia comes as a bombshell.
• The Presidency of BiH proclaims the JNA an occupation force.
• BiH becomes a member of the UN.


• After lengthy negotiations, the convoy of women and children abducted in Ilidza is released.
• SDS troops forcibly expel patients from the hospital in Jagomir. 113 mental patients roam the city.
• Sarajevan writer Abdulah Sidran, an avid chessplayer, seeks donations from 50,000 DM for BiH chessplayers to compete in the Chess Olympiad in Manila.


• In an attack on the city, the large Olympic complex “Zetra” is targeted.


• The MUP files criminal charges against members of the SDS, including former members of the BiH Presidency, Biljana Plavsic, Nikola Koljevic and Momcilo Krajisnik.
• Sefer Halilovic is named Commander of the BiH Territorial Defense.
• SDS troops attempt to break into the city through Vraca.
• Lisbon, May 24, 1992: A resolution is adopted, after new rounds of negotiations.


• Portugese Ambassador, Jose Cutileiro, initiates new rounds of negotiations. The Croat delegation from BiH led is led by Mate Boban. Radovan Karadzic represents the Serb people. The representatives of the Muslim people and delegation of BiH is led by Haris Silajdzic.


• JNA leaves the “Viktor Bubanj” barracks.
• Report from the Botanical Gardens: unique specimens are in jeopardy from incessant bombardment.
• The Apiarist Association of BiH sends out a statement to the world on the true state of affairs in the city.


• Heavy artillery attack by the aggressor on the maternity ward.
• Shelling in the city center. Massacre of civilians waiting in line for bread.
• The Presidency of BiH refuses a convoy exit from the city because of the possibility it will be taken hostage by the aggressor.


• JNA units evacuate the city barracks “Jusuf Dzonlic.”
• Artillery attack on the city. The city burns. Attack on the “Oslobodjenje” building.
• The destruction and burning of the city causes the interruption of the peace conference in Lisbon.
• The JNA leaves the Pazaric military compound.
• New York, May 30, 1992. The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 757, which imposes sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro and which:
- prevents the import of all products and commodities from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- prevents the sale of all products and commoditites to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- makes unavailable any financial resources, including Serbian and Yugoslav assets in foreign countries;
- denies permission to aircraft to take off from, land or overfly member states’ territory if it is destined to land or has arrived from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro, except for special flights approved in advance on humanitarian grounds;
- prohibits the maintenance of aircraft registered in, or serving the purposes of Serbia and Montenegro, delivering spare parts for such aircraft, providing insurance for them and charging for such services;
- reduces the level of diplomatic and consular staff in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- prohibits participation in sporting events to persons or groups representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro;
- suspends scientific, technical and cultural exchanges and visits with individuals and groups supported by or representing the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, i.e., Serbia and Montenegro.

Telephone lines

Telephone lines are going through satellites since August of 1992. Those expensive phones - each about $ 50,000 - are with foreign correspondents in the Holiday Inn, in the Office of Defense, in the Police Ministry, and in two industrial strongholds. Since December, citizens could try to get on a waiting list at the Post Office. Waiting is about a week long, and payment is in US dollars, 15-20 per minute, three minutes maximum. Some foreign journalists were known for charging ‘their’ communication favors i.e. use of satellite telephone, for double the price. That only shows you how expensive it is to go out into the world. However, it has been observed that lines with that world are working when the Postal tower on the occupied mountain of Trebevic sends a red light. Pay attention in case you have a working telephone and a view of the tower! Telephones are also working while the news from Belgrade is on, and while reporters from Pale, from the TV channel called Serbia in Bosnia, are linking into the Big System. Lines are open during their reports. What you need, again, are a working telephone and quick reflexes.

City communication is reduced to yelling under and in front of large blocks. Where there is no electricity, there can be no bells! Messages are delivered through messengers who carry them from one part of the town to another. Post offices are not selling Bosnian stamps yet. They haven’t been printed. To tell the truth, they aren’t necessary. There are no letters that can be mailed. It is only those scarce taxi-drivers who can establish links between sealed parts of the town. It happens this way: a cab-driver in one zone calls by the car radio his colleague in Grbavica. Then the colleague goes to the address of the person who is being looked for. He tells her to come in the car. While they are driving conversation goes on. The only disadvantage is that everyone in any cab can eavesdrop.

THE POST OFFICE

The Austro-Hungarian building of the Post Office, located on the riverside, was destroyed during the night of May 2, 1992. Terrorists placed the dynamite inside the building and after it blew up it was shelled by inflammable shells until it burnt down. The bags containing the last Sarajevo mail to places outside Sarajevo burnt down. The phone-boxes were destroyed by the shelling. The outcome of the destruction of the central Post Office and the lack of electricity was, according to the Sarajevo Municipal Assembly data from April 1993, that out of more than 150,000 phone lines only 2,000 were operational. Telephone lines between Sarajevo and the rest of the world were not operational during the whole time of the siege. During the siege the communication with the outside world was maintained by amateur radio operators and a few satellite phones. Links with relatives, friends and business partners were established through foreigners who brought in and out the messages, which often grew to book size. In February 1996, an exhibition of sculptures was placed inside the burnt out Post Office building.

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