RED CROSS CONVOY FORBIDDEN TO LEAVE// 11. 1992. • SEFER HALILOVIC// COMMANDER OF THE ARBH HQ
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Commander of the BH Army HQ
RED CROSS CONVOY FORBIDDEN TO LEAVE
‘I gave orders to stop the Red Cross convoy because it did not have clearance. At that time the military police were responsible for exits and on my orders were to prevent the exit of anyone of military age of whom a large number were in the convoy. When we checked the makeup of the convoy we found that about 60% were healthy men whose duty it was to defend Sarajevo and the Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the earlier Constitution, and in the present one it should have written, that defense of the country is the greatest honor, and for those deserters it was the greatest duty. And that duty includes for those that wanted to get out that it should be made impossible for them to get out that they shouldn’t be allowed to get out. That was the reason for not allowing the convoy.’
• In order for Sarajevans to join organized convoys that after a long delay have begun to leave the city, one needs to receive consent from the Sarajevo police, UN approval and consent from the Bosnian Serbs.
• Stjepan Kljujic, the BiH Presidency’s Croat member is forced to resign at the request of the HDZ, in favor of Miro Lasic, their new candidate.
• Sefer Halilovic, commander of the BiH Armed Forces, prohibits the departure of the convoy, but Pero Butigan, director of the Red Cross, insists that they are required to transport citizens. In the end, both convoys, one headed for Split and the other for Belgrade, manage to leave.
• Director Paul Masic makes the animated film "Coffee".
• "Sipad holding,” a factory for processing wood and producing furniture, possesses stores of wood that could be used for heating, but the question remains how it can be brought into Sarajevo. Wood shipments are stalled in Fojnica, Tarcin, Konjic ... all cities surrounding Sarajevo.
• Geneva, November 7th, 1992. In Geneva, during a conference on Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic, says that due to pressure from the international community for now he will abandon the request for a separate state, but he still holds requirements for great autonomy and the division of BiH into five areas. Haris Silajdzic demands the opening of a road corridor from Ploce - Mostar - Sarajevo
• A convoy of Sarajevo Slovenes, organized by the Association of Slovenes and the Slovenian government, leaves Sarajevo for Slovenia.
• UNPROFOR and the utility company 'Rad' undertake cleaning and the removal of a huge number of damaged vehicles from the street.
• The wounded wait to leave the city.
• A Hollywood team visits the editorial office of "Oslobodjenje," which operates in the basements of their completely destroyed headquarters situated on the front line of the city
• UNPROFOR receives a decision of the UN from Geneva stating that the official political and economic delegations from Sarajevo can use transport aircraft used to deliver humanitarian aid.
• The UNHCR advises Sarajevans to eat packed lunches from humanitarian aid every 6-7 days.
• The Post Office reconnects 30,000 phone lines just for priority cases, and only for local communication, as the connections to outside countries have been cut.
• The District Military Prosecutor's Office conducts an investigation of former UNPROFOR commander Louis Mackenzie
• In the city, banks are being established.
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.