HOW TO BRING A LITER OF WATER // 02. 1993.
AZEM MEHMEDOVIC // CITIZEN
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

February 1993

Azem Mehmedovic
Citizen
HOW TO BRING A LITER OF WATER

‘Water was very difficult to carry, especially for me, because it’s very difficult for me to go up and down the steps. And during the war it was very risky to let the children to go fetch water, because it was known that they shot at exactly those places where people gathered. And then we got the idea to make, apart from the fact that I climb steps with great difficulty, now we would have to go up the steps with four canisters, for example, which is even harder, so we invented a pulley. It was in fact a sort of drum, that stood on a trestle, there was a handle and there was a cable spooled around it and the cable had a loop, so we let the cable down to the first floor. I live high up on the 11th, and down there you pull the loop through all the canisters and bind them together with a belt and then we slowly pull it up in shifts, my son, then me, then sometimes the neighbors. Mostly we helped each other. But we spent incredible amounts of water, because you use it for all sorts of things, we never even knew that one spends so much water, before we had to carry it.’

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FEBRUARY 1993


• The Geneva negotiations move to New York.
• Sarajevo is surrounded by five rings :
1. The Bosnian Serb Army 2.The UN 3. The HVO 4. The black market 5. The current government


• The Bosnian Serbs shell mourning processions, funerals and hospitals in Sarajevo.
• Vinko Puljic, head of the Catholic church in BiH, meets with the Pope. From Sarajevo he conveys the Pope’s message to the world: “Stop the savagery, let humanity prevail!”


• Lord Robert Owen comes out against the USA, who had rejected a plan that favored the Bosnian Serbs.
• SUBNOR, an association of soldiers from the Second World War, makes an appeal to its members to fight against facism, genocide and ethnic cleansing, and for communal life.
• Advice to patients: If you go to the clinic, bring a log, because the heating situation is critical.


• The city is struck by wartime hyperinflation .
• The International Center for Peace receives representatives from the Helsinki Citizens Forum from France who need to monitor the situation in Sarajevo, and then report to the European and world public whether civil society exists in Sarajevo.


• The UNHCR suspends flights.
• High schools begin to operate at neighborhood council centers, business premises, apartments.
• Radio “Studio 99” reports news on the division of the city. Panicked listeners contact the program. Vance-Owen mediators are in the city; this information originates from them.


• Killed and wounded lay on the airport runway. During the run across the tarmac UNPROFOR reflect lights on it, giving Bosnian Serbs the chance to aim at the moving target. Afterward UN procedures are followed – those caught are placed in UN vehicles and the blue-helmets take them back to wherever they came from.


• The best sportsmen are announced for BiH in '92: chess players Vesna Basagic and Ivan Sokolov.


• The City Assembly decides that Sarajevans, in a gesture of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia, will not accept humanitarian aid until a humanitarian convoy reaches Eastern Bosnia.


• The first wartime cinema opens, “Obala”. Screenings are held in Sarajevo basements.
• Because of the city government’s refusal to accept humanitarian aid, supplies are left lying on the airport runway. Pilots refuse to land because of the piles of undelivered food.


• “Oslobodjenje” is visited by Bianca Jagger.
• The UNHCR decides in Geneva: Government officials cannot be transported on UN planes. The previous month, Geneva had approved local reporters’ use of UN planes from the besieged city.
• The Civil Defense requests two containers from the city authorities to protect Sarajevans from snipers at intersections. The Civil Defense is unable to tow them because they have no fuel.


• Sadako Ogata, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), halts humanitarian aid to BiH, while the executive council sticks to its decision to refuse humanitarian aid out of solidarity with the citizens of Eastern Bosnia. Once this decision is reversed the air bridge is reestablished.
• New York, February 20, 1993. The UN Security Council unanimously adopts a new resolution extending the mandate of the 13,000 blue-helmets in Croatia. This resolution provides for the temporary extension of the UN mandate through March 31st. Resolution 807 urges the UN Secretary General to provide additional arms in order to enhance defense capabilities and allows the use of arms in the event of an attack on the peacekeepers, under paragraph 7 of the UN Charter. In addition, the temporary extension of the mandate includes the same tasks as the previous two terms, meaning the neutralization of heavy arms and the corresponding withdrawal of warring sides.


• “Oslobodjenje” proclaimed the world’s newspaper of the year.
• The information blockade of TVBiH is broken – the programming includes Studio Zenica live during the TV news.


• At gatherings across the world, amid protests against the impotence of the EC and UN to halt the bloody aggression in Bosnia, posters appear: “In Bosnia, Europe dies”.
• New York, February 22, 1993. The UN Security Council adopts a new resolution on the formation of an international court for war crimes within the territory of the former Yugoslavia. According to the text of the resolution, all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia from the first of January 1991 will be reviewed. All those charged with war crimes, mass killings and rapes, ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity will be brought before this court.
• The executive council of the city halts the boycott of humanitarian aid.
• The “Alsace shipment” arrives in Sarajevo. It is at the time the largest humanitarian convoy to arrive in Sarajevo.


Water

Water shortages may last for days, or weeks. The reasons are always the same - no electricity, or a act of terror. Then the search starts. First, one checks a basement. Then you may go to Konak (which serves only the privileged) then to Sedam brace on Bistrik, where big lines are formed, then in the neighborhood of Pionirska dolina, where one waits under the snipers Those who carry water do so, depending on their strength and the number of canisters, several times a day, traveling several kilometers, waiting in a line for at least three hours. The lucky ones are those with bicycles, which are pushed rather than driven. The same with the owners of baby-carriages and former market carriages. Anything that rolls will do, for everything is easier than carrying the water by hand.
In one of Sarajevo neighborhoods Alipasino polje, someone with a gun made holes in the water pipe running above a little stream. Water was pouring and for hours people were hanging on the rotten bridge trying to collect as much of a precious liquid as possible. The best thing that can happen is a discovery of water somewhere in the neighborhood where you live. It doesn’t matter that the pipe emerges from the disaster left after the big Olympic hall has burned to ground. There is a pipe, and there is water, and there are big lines with people who do not worry anymore whether the water is clean, or not.
One of the ways to find water is using dowsing rods. Life, and your ability to survive is very much about natural talents In this case - you put your electromagnetic waves against those of the water. Gifted magicians are searching for the water. Those more talented and skillful can even advise you how deep you should dig. It is known that even during the First World War, Austro-Hungarian troops had special divisions which consisted of dowsers whose duty was to search for new wells. At that time, the water on the Eastern Front (also known as the Serbian) was very polluted. Yet, with them and without them, it is the rain that brings consolation. Groove gutters are, unfortunately, damaged. People stand in lines, in the rain, waiting with buckets for their portion of rain-water. Day or night - it doesn’t really matter. People drink it and use it for doing laundry. It is very good for your hair, which becomes silky and shiny. Lack of water makes the people of Sarajevo very dose to medieval knights and to French monarchs. They ration water, as if they were Bedouins. Long hair can be washed in a liter and half, the whole body in two or three - all in little pots and pans, with water lukewarm or cold.
The washing machine is a household appliance from some long-gone times. It has no function. The women of Sarajevo are again first-class laundresses. The only thing lacking is a battledore, Iye soap and a clean river to wash what they have.
To run the toilet, waste water is collected, and water is brought from springs - if they are not too polluted - or from the street…

THE BREWERY

The brewery was built in 1881 during the Austro-Hungarian period and it was the first modern brewery in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The water for the brewery comes from an underground lake under Sarajevo. As one of the rare places where people from all over the city came for water, the brewery was an important strategic target for the aggressor and many people waiting in line for water were killed or wounded. This was the place where people gathered with their carts filled with canisters after walking ten kilometers to reach water. This was also the place where filled, but also the cisterns which supplied water to citizens. In the city which had waterworks for several hundreds of years and which had boasted public drinking fountains on every corner the water supply was one of the greatest problems of the siege, because the aggressor commanded all the springs blackmailing the city, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the UN. The citizens gathered rainwater from broken drain-pipes, fetched water from the Miljacka and thawed snow. In 1993 in one of the tunnels leading to Pale the SOROS Foundation built the waterworks which supplied the city pumps.

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