ALSACE PARCELS ARRIVE IN SARAJEVO// 02. 1993. • IBRAHIM SPAHIC// DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE CENTER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT
Director of the International Peace Center
ALSACE PARCELS ARRIVE IN SARAJEVO
‘25 February ’93 the largest quantity of food and building materials for everyday life arrived in Sarajevo. One packet had 17 and a half kilos, and there were about 11 thousand packets. They arrived in lorries escorted by the French TV 3 from Alzasce. I can tell you that everyone began to dream about packets. They caused something like an unbelievable miracle, people suddenly realized that somewhere outside what I might call the ring around us there were people who wanted to make contact with people and help them.’
• 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.
If you are well connected, travel with help of UNPROFOR, Caritas, Adra, Red Cross, Dobrotvor. Their journey lasts between forty-five to eighty days. Their content is conditioned by the fierce rules of the aggressor. The weight cannot be over 24 kilos, it can’t contain meat, vegetables, cans. It happens sometimes that instead of the expected package with food, one receives a piece of a uniform, or stones. More valuable packages don’t reach their destination.
He was born on May 10, 1952 in Sarajevo. He graduated from the Philosophy College (comparative literature and theater science). He has been the director of the festival Sarajevo Winter since 1984. He is the president of the Sarajevo International Peace Center, the president of the Sarajevo Citizens Forum and the president of the Bosnian Civic Democratic Party. He is into publishing and the editor of the magazine for human rights and freedoms “Why.”
He received many peace, human rights and humanism prizes from various international organizations. He says his biggest acknowledgement is that a European family named its child Ibrahim.
It there were life after life, in what shape would you return?
In the same shape.
How do you describe perfect happiness?
As happiness of perfectionism.
What is you biggest loss?
The deportation of my family.
What is your biggest gain?
The return of my family.
When and where were you happiest?
In Sarajevo April 28, 1984.
What are your lost illusions?
Illusions about the values of the European “human rights.”
Describe your day at work.
Meetings visits, designing, coordination, reading, listening.
What words don’t you use anymore?
I hate the misuse of words and people.
In your opinion, is morale a virtue?
Yes, if virtue is moral.
Where would you like to live?
How have you survived?
As a Sarajevan.
What are you afraid of?
Of women’s weaknesses.
Does the past exist for you?
Just like the future.
This is the end of a civilization. What will the next one be like?
The one who knows that this is the end of one civilization knows what the next one will look like.
Can you give us a recipe for mental health?
You cannot give a recipe for mental health.
How would you like to die?
If we knew this, life would have no meaning.
Do you need hope to live?
What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
How would you call this period of your life?
Your message from the end of the world, from a country of last things?
Earth is, as poet Mak tells us: “Forgive me, but spiteful even of a dream”.
Do you like life, and what is life all about?
I do love it! But, what is the secret of life altogether?