RED CROSS EVACUATES THE ELDERLY AND SICK // 10. 1992.
SEFER HALILOVIC // COMMANDER OF THE ARBH HQ
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

October 1992

Sefer Halilovic
Commander of the BH Army HQ
RED CROSS EVACUATES THE ELDERLY AND SICK

‘The whole thing was organized under the pretext that, since Sarajevo was encircled, as many civilians should get out as possible. But we understood very well what it was about. It was so that under the pretext of moving the old and sick and infirm, against which we had absolutely no complaints, because it wasn’t anything to do with us, and we didn’t get mixed up in it, that was the work of the humanitarian agencies not us. We were against, as the saying goes ‘the sheep getting out with the goats’ and we didn’t want to find people of military age going out with the old and the sick because that meant weakening the fighting strength of the city and could lead to the defeat of Sarajevo.’

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OCTOBER 1992


• Geneva, October 2, 1992: The conference on the former Yugoslavia in Geneva continues.
Two announcements from Geneva:
- The demilitarization of Sarajevo as the first step towards peace;
- Continued discussion on the constitutional order of BiH under the auspices of the Conference;
- Signing of the Declaration in which Croatia and Yugoslavia agree to respect existing borders, in accordance with the decisions of the London Conference. An agreement is reached on the return of refugees.
- Under the auspices of the International Red Cross and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, an agreement is signed on the release of civilians in concentration camps.
• The Mayor of Sarajevo issues an announcement: "Citizens, do not cut the trees! You only need to wait for the opening of the corridor, and that will probably be soon. Poplars can be cut, but those are needed by the army. "


• Statement by Rassek, the new commander of UNPROFOR, "One of the primary tasks of UNPROFOR - is to provide a continuous and smooth flow of water into the city."
• In Sarajevo, massive car theft. Although the owners remove the tires to prevent theft, thieves bring their own wheels, install them and take the car.
• The Ski Association of BiH submits an application for admission to the International Ski Federation. At the meeting they will be represented by a Slovenian delegation, because the representatives of BiH can’t leave the besieged city.
• At the peace conference in Geneva, the Foreign Minister of BiH, seeks an abolition of the arms embargo.
• New York, October 8th, 1992: the UN Security Council adopts two resolutions:
- The first forms the basis for the establishment of a commission for the investigation of war crimes in Bosnia;
- The second allows UNPROFOR to take control of the territory after the withdrawal of the former Yugoslav army from Prevlaka.
New York, October 9th, 1992:
New UN Security Council resolution 781:
The UN Security Council orders a ban on all military flights over Bosnia except for UN aircraft. The prohibition is effective immediately.
• Mile Akmadzic, Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, asks for republic officials to return to Sarajevo within five days or lose their positions.


• Generators producing electricity work in coffee shops but not in hospitals.
• Salaries of the members of the Presidency - 20 DEM - the black market rate.


• A fierce debate between the directors of the Red Cross and the Commander of the Army Forces over a convoy departure with 6,500 people from Sarajevo leaving in their private cars.
• The Volkswagen "Golf" becomes the vehicle of the season. The "Golf" can drive under any conditions.
• A convoy with 180 Jews leaves Sarajevo.


• No one has information on incoming humanitarian aid: e.g, who the donors are, the quantity of goods that has arrived, nor the quality of the goods.
• The phenomenon of survival in the besieged city:
Bicycle – in the movie "Miracle in Milan" cyclists ascend to to heaven; in Sarajevo cyclists rush through the streets to avoid a premature trip to heaven.
Heating - people search for sunlight to warm up, but can die because of it.
Bathing - you can wash yourself with a cup of water and look clean, and wash your hair with a pot of water and dry it in the oven.
Sawing- Sarajevans are awoken by the sound of chainsaws at dawn, the best time to cut down trees.
• The news of the coup in Sarajevo is launched by TV "Srna", a television station run by the Bosnian Serbs. Belgrade has taken over deceptive news broadcasts. Foreign journalists in Belgrade pass the news along to the world, bearing the TV "Srna" logo. The news comes back to Belgrade where its given the headline: "As Radio Geneva reports, a coup took place today in Sarajevo."
• On Igman the OSBiH arrests Juka Prazina, a leader of special urban guerrilla units, because of attacks on Sarajevo from Igman; cooperation with HVO units; and attacks on the BiH Armed Forces.
• "Velepekara" (a large bakery) is heavily shelled. Its mill is burnt down.
• For 21 days Sarajevo is without electricity or gas, has had no water for 19 days; and bread is distributed only on the basis of priority. The transmitter in Vogošća has been shelled. There is no electricity, and no one knows when it will be back on again.


• In Sarajevo, a command is issued to finally reckon with the crime in the city: all armed groups must be incorporated into the city defense or be forcibly disarmed. All stolen goods must be returned within 48 hours. A subsequent operation uncovers warehouses of looted goods.
• In Belgrade, Koca Popovic dies, one of the greatest figures in partisan and political circles of Socialist Yugoslavia.
• Sarajevans find water using a divining rod.
• Under UN supervision, a meeting is held between a working group comprised of military representatives from the Armed Forces of BiH and the Bosnian Serb Army.


• Sarajevo Mayor Muhamed Kresevljakovic returns from a tour. On that occasion he says: “If ships from Spain arrive in Ploce, and the Croatian side allows transport, Sarajevans could have 300 tons of potatoes." He brings a bag of letters from Ljubljana to Sarajevans.
• UNPROFOR headquarters is returned to Sarajevo.
• One of the military negotiators of the Bosnian Serbs, General Gvero, asks the UN organizations to open up roads for 60,000 Serbs to leave Sarajevo.
• Commander of the BiH Armed Forces, Sefer Halilovic, sends a message to Sarajevo: "Instead of continuously walking (strolling) on the streets, it would be better if you would sit at home and from home knit sweaters and socks for those who are defending us."
• Bosnian passports are beeing issued in limited numbers.
• Geneva, October 29, 1992.
- At the Geneva negotiations on Bosnia a proposal is made to divide the country into seven to ten provinces within its existing borders;
- The central government would have responsibility for foreign affairs, defense, government, international trade, and taxes for the central government;
- Education, cultural institutions, radio programs and a host of other issues would be the responsibility of the provinces.
• Razija Colic, a film professional, loses both of her legs while trying to rescue a film archive from fires caused by the shelling.
• A transit visa is introduced for Croatia.

Convoy

Convoy is the term which equals organized exit, a ticket with no return. For all such journeys there are lists, and there is time to be spent in waiting, filled with uncertainties. They are organized by Children’s’ Embassy, Red Cross, by the Jewish Community, by the Slovenian government before the elections. Those who entered one of the lists in June, who have all the needed documents, are not sure that they will be leaving the city in December. There is always a new document required, a new rule to obey, a new delay. And, no wonder, each convoy has its own rules. Children’s’ Embassy takes out children, mothers, the very old and the exhausted. The Red Cross is taking out old, sick and children. The Jewish Community took out Jews and their friends, supplying them with false documents. Slovenes took out their citizens and those who could remember one Slovenian in the family in past seven generations. At these sad departures, you could often hear anxious questions: “Father, what’s your name? Mother, what’s your name?”
One more paradigmatic dialogue:
Question: “When are you leaving?”
Answer: “Well, I am on the list Still waiting for a confirmation from Geneva.”
Discreetly, but to no one’s surprise, the City was left by wives, children, parents and friends of various officials. Illegal channels were used, starting in Stup, Ilidza, Kobilja}a. From there, to Kiseljak - a Hong Kong of Sarajevo - if heading West. To Pale, if going East. On each of these starts, there was a ‘connection’, a guy dealing with the formalities which basically means exchanging tangible hard currency with the invisible bus ticket. Starting fee is 100 to 200 DM. Additional amounts were supplied by Muslims, for they often needed false documents.
It is a well known secret that for about 1000 DM, deposited in one of the cafes close to the Veterinary college, one could get to Grbavica (a sealed part of the town, a camp from which no one can go out, and into which no one can enter). From there for the mentioned fee, the bus would take you to Belgrade. Another part of the same secret is that there is a rule according to which for one person who enters Grbavica, one from Grbavica is being released into the City. Profit is mutual.

THE RED CROSS BUILDING AND THE “SUTJESKA” CINEMA

The Red Cross building and the “Sutjeska” cinema are located across the street from the City Assembly at what was one of the most dangerous crossroads in Sarajevo. In spite of the highly visible Red Cross sign the building was completely destroyed. Within its burnt walls artists and sculptors opened a long-running exhibition “The Witnesses of Existence”. Its visitors were offered hot tea which during the waterless, cold Sarajevo winters, was quite an event.

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