SPEEDING AGAINST SNIPERS // 06. 1992.
OMER STAMBOLIC // ASSISTANT MINISTER OF INTERNAL AFFAIRS
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

June 1992

Omer Stambolic
Assistant minister of Internal Affairs
SPEEDING AGAINST SNIPERS

‘The thing was that practically all of the roads in the city of Sarajevo were subject to very precise sniper fire. Starting at the southernmost parts of town. So from Stup to Bascarsija it was almost impossible to find a fifty-meter stretch of road that wasn't under fire. I think that this was one of the unusual forms of physical mistreatment that the population of Sarajevo had to undergo. The enemy simply wanted to make it clear that no movement about the town would be allowed. Countless times we had emergency cases in which we tried to save people who had lost control, while driving at breakneck speed, in order to avoid sniper fire, and found themselves on the tram tracks or simply ran into a barrier or railing on the side of the road or even into one of the trees that line the avenues. Every one of those cases had tragic results. I can't remember if any of them during that period survived. For this reason I would say that this was a particularly unusual way of killing people that was maybe unique in this war.’

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JUNE 1992


• A home for the blind becomes a perch for armed Serb paramilitary troops.
• The JNA leaves the largest barracks, “Marsal Tito,” in the city center.
• Telephone connection cut: Sarajevo – the World.


• The citizens, shut in their apartment blocks and basements because of the unending shelling, begin organizing block events.
• The city faces severe food shortages. The local community creates a mini farm at Buljakov stream to survive.


• When the aggressor attacks Aerodromsko naselje citizens turn their radios up to the song, “Don’t give up, Bosnia!”


• The UN leads negotiations on reclaiming the airport, which is under the control of the JNA and Serb terrorists.
• Sarajevan psychiatrists give advice to citizens on how to mentally survive: establish as many contacts as possible, avoid isolation, show solidarity, share everything with others, and do as much as possible – invent tasks rather than sit with folded arms.
• Methadone runs out, a treatment for narcotics addicts.
• The electrical power system in BiH is divided up.
• The Presidency of BiH proclaims a state of war and general mobilization.
• Louis Mackenzie, UNPROFOR Commander, brokers a two day truce as a condition for opening the airport.
• The building of the "Oslobodjenje" newspaper burns, under heavy artillery attacks.
• JNA planes target the TV transmitter in Mostre near Visoko, in the vicinity of Sarajevo.
• Serb paramilitary troop expel Muslim and Croat citizens from the Sarajevo suburb of Ilidza.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH announces that he will leave for a conference in Strasbourg on April 25 if the airport is opened and if UNPROFOR secures the road to the airport.
• Before the conference in Strasbourg, special units of MUP petition against a cantonized and divided Bosnia.
• The Public Prosecutor’s Office of BiH in Sarajevo issues a ban on the SDS. The proceedings are initiated by the Center for Antiwar Activities and the Prosecutor’s office makes the ruling.
• SDS barricades halt BiH Olympians on their way to the Olympic Games in Barcelona.
• "Gras" tram conductors transport Sarajevans, and a fifth column inquires as to the departure times of trams which are then told to SDS terrorists so that they can fire upon them fro the hills.
• Klaus Kinkel, the German Foreign Minister, feels helpless rage and falls into a deep depression over the inability of the international community to help Bosnia and Sarajevo.
• Strasbourg, June 25, 1992. A summit on BiH begins in Strasbourg. Presiding over the summit is Lord Carrington. Participants: Haris Silajdzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tudjman.
• Waiting for a ceasefire before opening the airport, Louis Mackenzie: the BiH government has an effective military in the city, while the Serbs state they will not fire at civilian targets, meaning they can fire at military targets.
• Sarajevans, being heavy smokers, smoke a variety of types of cigarettes in the besieged city; the healthiest are the KOKTEL cigarettes.
• MUP issues guidelines for safe movement in the city amid shelling and sniper fire.
• In the Sarajevo neighborhood of Alipasino polje, B block, a chess competition is held.


• The peace conference in Strasbourg collapses.
• Abandoned house pets roam the city because their owners have fled.
• Sarajevo′s “Velepekara” (mass bakery) no longer produces bread, the staple food of Sarajevo, because it lacks yeast.
• Table tennis players from Sarajevo go to Crkvenica to prepare for a European tournament.
• French President François Mitterand, makes a completely unannounced landing at the closed Sarajevo airport, and later goes on a tour of the besieged city. He visits the State and Military Hospitals, and on this visit resolves the crisis over the delivery of humanitarian aid, just as he later blocks eventual air strikes against Bosnian Serb positions.
• The Presidency decides to implement work quotas for all civilians.
• The blue UN flag flaps over the runway of Sarajevo airport, three minutes before the UN Security Council convenes at the deadline of the ultimatum given the Bosnian Serbs. The first planes carrying humanitarian aid arrive in Sarajevo.
• All contact with the outside world is cut off.
• New York, June 30, 1992. The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 761 which authorizes the Secretary General to employ UNPROFOR to establish the security and functioning of Sarajevo airport. Article 2 of the Resolution urges all parties to maintain an absolute and unconditional ceasefire.

Transportation

Imagine driving through streets with no street lights (which are torn down or not working), without any traffic signs (for they are gone), without any attention paid to pedestrians, with a maximum speed across the crossroads and other dangerous spots. People are driving recklessly in both directions. No one pays any attention to crashes. Broken cars are being abandoned easily and damage is being negotiated in quick conversations. This is the war with the biggest civilian motor pool. The war is being waged in Audis, in BMWs, in Mercedes and VW Golfs, as well as in expensive yuppie jeeps. The Sarajevo car of 1992 is a GOLF DIESEL It is painted in military camouflage, and has no windows. It is entirely covered by nylon, foils, tin, cardboard and hardboard. Its fenders have been ruined, it is full of holes made by bullets, has no lights. Depending on the taste of a driver, or of his girlfriend, lights are covered with tapes in different colors: red, blue, green, all for a night drive in the city which is totally dark. Driving is fast and dangerous. There are no rent-a-car services. You rent a car with a driver - former taxi-driver-and you pay 100 DM per day.

City transportation
City transportation - trams, buses, vans, trolleys, cable rail-way-does not exist. Sometimes rarely, you can see double buses but only until October, almost half of a year after the war had started. A bus is running between Alipasino polje to the French Hospital (it was once military), in case it gets fuel from UNPROFOR. When the fuel is gone, passengers leave the bus and continue on foot. Cars are running, if run by or for officials. Most were taken away form private owners, with or without, a receipt, especially if they ran on diesel. New models appeared, home-made armored cars which look like moving closets, only with a hole in front of the driver. They are slow, shaky and loud.

Bicycles
Bicycles - which were never too popular in this hilly terrain - are being rediscovered and put to use.

Shopping carts are now used for the transportation of water canisters, of coal and wood. Renting is not too expensive.

Taxis
Taxis do not exist.

Parking is advised only on spots protected from grenades and thieves. Such places are scarce. Whole cars are stolen, but their parts are not safe either: wheels, fuel, batteries, seat-covers, lights.

Gas stations are not working. Fuel can be found at UNPROFOR, and on the black market where the price per liter is 15 DM. You can get five liters of oil in exchange for a porno video - very appreciated by the Ukrainian members of the UN forces. Don’t expect that the gas or petrol are going to be of good quality.

Car-repair, exclusively arranged through connections. There are no visible signs where repairmen are working. But they exist.

DANGEROUS ZONES

Every area of the city was a dangerous zone. At every moment, from all the places in the mountains surrounding the city the snipers could hit every target in the city. Therefore the most dangerous zones were those directly in the line of fire Bridges, crossroads and streets exposed to the mountains. Those were the places where the possibility of getting shot was somewhat lessened if one was a fast runner. Such places also seemed less terrifying than other parts of town where one was never sure whether one should walk fast or slow. Would the shell land where you are or in front of you? The signs DANGEROUS ZONE or WATCH OUT, SNIPER, as well as the signs showing the direction of traffic were written in oil-based paint on pieces of UNHCR plastic sheets, or on pieces of cardboard, wooden board or simply written with chalk on the wall.

TRANSPORTATION

As early as the first year of the siege the official statistics showed that the number of vehicles fell from 105,000 to 5,000; of the 200 city transportation routes there remained one and of the 6,000 city transportation vehicles there remained 60. In May 1992 the city Public transportation depot was shelled and a great number of buses, trams and trolley buses were destroyed. The trolley buses stopped operating. A few buses and trams, provided there was fuel and electricity, took to the streets where they became favorite targets. The VW Golf cars, made in Sarajevo before the war, were the most widely used means of transportation. Due to the high speeds and a great number of drivers without driving licenses a poster appeared during the first months of the siege: DRIVE CAREFULLY, DON’T GET KILLED IN VAIN. It also informed the citizens that THERE WERE 300 DEAD AND INJURED in traffic accidents. White UN vehicles, which killed several Sarajevans, were the most frequent sight on the streets.

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