CULTURAL DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO // 03. 1993.
IBRAHIM SPAHIC // DIRECTOR OF THE INTERNATIONAL PEACE CENTER
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

March 1993

Ibro Spahic
Director of the International Peace Center
CULTURAL DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO

‘All the events that took place in shelters, the Youth Theatre, the Shelter Productions, what happened in concerts like that of Amila Baksic in the Holiday Inn, Ibrahim Ljubovic’s exhibition for example at the International Press Center, they were all parts of a dramatic picture which was meant to call attention and to simply say we refuse to be the victims of barbarism and invite you to too to stand in defense, your own defense, which means the defense of Sarajevo.’

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MARCH 1993


• New York, March 1, 1993. Peace negotiations resume in New York. The participants include the respresentative of the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, the representative of the Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban, and the representative of the BH delegation, Alija Izetbegovic. The peace conference is presided over by Cyrus Vance and Lord Robert Owen.


• The Public Prosecutor’s Office launches an initiative to extradite Radovan Karadzic to the BiH judiciary.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, in New York gives his signature to the second part of the Vance-Owen peace plan.


• Japan sends cans of tuna as humanitarian aid worth a total of $5,800,000 – the most nutritionally valuable food received yet.


• In Sarajevo an association is founded for cooperation between Bosnia and Austria. Alois Mock sends a telegram of support.
• A description of events on the airport runway: The nickname for the guide across the runway is “Rabbit.” The runway became a corridor for smuggling and carrying in food in backpacks into the city. Runners wore suits made of white bedsheets so that UNPROFOR couldn’t see them when they shined reflectors. Smugglers broke eggs and poured them through a funnel into a canister so they could carry them across the runway.
• A European edition of “Oslobodjenje” is released.
• Renewed work by the Serb humanitarian society “Dobrotvor”.


• Bosnian Serbs prevent the arrival of representatives of the Republican assembly to the city.
• “Adra”, an Adventist humanitarian society is the best connection for carrying personal packages into the city.


• Amid the humanitarian crisis in Srebrenica, French general Morillon remains with the inhabitants of Srebrenica until the humanitarian convoy whose passage was prevented by the Bosnian Serb troops has entered the town.
• A rock concert in Sarajevo is held, “Help Bosnia Now!”
• The International Center for Peace invites mayors of cities across the world to protest the division of the city.


• In the city, wall advertisements allow citizens to learn about the supply and demand for goods of all kinds.


• 85% of the BH economy is destroyed.


• In New York, the BH delegation suspends negotiations while the Bosnian Serb attacks on Srebrenica and Sarajevo last. New York, March 19, 1993. In New York, President Izetbegovic halts peace negotiations. He informs the co-chairs of the peace conference, Vance and Owen, that he cannot continue the peace negotiations while Serb aggression against Srebrenica intensifies and their fierce attack on Sarajevo continues.


• In Sarajevo, the trial against Bosnian Serb Borislav Herak for crimes against humanity. The presiding judge is Fahrudin Teftedarija.
• In Kamerni teatar 55, safe from shelling, a concert is held - “The Most Beautiful Melodies in the World”.
• Spring arrives earlier than usual: on March 20th, at 3:42pm.


• French general Morillon, UNPROFOR commander, becomes an honorary citizen of Srebrenica. On that occasion he announces: “I feel like a king, the people worship me.”
• Humanitarian aid arrives in Srebrenica. The citizens of Srebrenica stampede toward air dropped humanitarian aid. Many are killed, suffocated or trampled.
• NATO estabslishes control over the Adriatic Sea.


• Heavy artillery attacks on the city.
• The Children’s Embassy awards their mascot, ”Zlatni cupko” to General Morillon.


• The USA will participate in maintaining peace if the warring sides agree to a peace process.
• NATO will send 60,000 soldiers if a peace agreement is reached.
• New York, March 26, 1993. Negotiations on BiH are completed in New York. The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, signs documents and maps as well as an interim resolution for the Republic of BiH, the Vance-Owen peace plan. The interim solution is also signed by the leader of Bosnian Croats, Mate Boban. Radovan Karadzic refuses to sign either agreement.


• The President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, accepts the Vance-Owen plan. President Bill Clinton congratulations him on this prudent move.


• A ceasefire is declared. It begins at twelve o’clock.
• Kamerni teatar 55 holds a “Prayer for Peace”.
• The Bosnian Serbs oppose German participation in Operation “Parachute” to deliver humanitarian aid.


• The Bosnian Serbs are given a deadline of 10-15 days to sign a peace agreement. Russia applies diplomatic pressure on them. Alija Izetbegovic announces: “The plan is bad, but the best for ending the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”


• The Serb Cultural Society “Prosvjeta” renews its work in Sarajevo.


Cultural survival

The besieged city defends itself by culture and thus survives. Groups and individuals create whatever they used to create before the siege In impossible circumstances they produce films, write books, publish newspapers, produce radio programs, design postcards, stage exhibitions, performances, make blueprints for rebuilding the city, found new banks, organize fashion shows, shoot photographs, celebrate holidays, put on make up... Sarajevo is the city of the future and of the life in the post-cataclysm. In it on the ruins of the old civilization a new one is sprouting, an alternative one, composed of remains of urban elements Sarajevo lives a life of futuristic comics and science fiction movies.

CULTURAL SURVIVAL

Sarajevo is a unique city on the planet. It is the site where our civilization has been dismantled in the course of intentional violence.
But Sarajevo is also the symbol of civil defense, the site where violence has been fought back with tolerance, fascism with art and culture, destruction with rebuilding, death with humour, the outburst of rural culture with the one that's urban terror with stubborn maintaining of normal city lifestyle.
Sarajevo has been deprived of all the civil, existential and social rights. It has been deprived of the right to live. Everything that makes normal urban living has been taken away from Sarajevo and its citizens, everything that could have been taken away has been taken away, all except for the right to survive by maintaining the right to culture.
But among all that destruction and dying, kids are being born, birthdays celebrated, weddings carried out. In the city surrounded by the deadly circle of primitivism the exhibitions are being opened, movies made, festivals organized, theatre plays and musicals performed.
Sarajevo lives the post-cataclysm. It is the picture of civilization emerging out of cataclysm, making something out of nothing, giving messages for the future.
Not because the future is necessarily a future of wars and disasters, but because humans are growing older and being born into a world which is ever less secure.
All that has been left under the ruins of Sarajevo, all that has survived the shelling of our civilization is the spirit of the cultural survival. The reconstruction of that spirit, the spirit of Sarajevo must start – now. Otherwise – Sarajevo will become the graveyard of the principles of multiethnicity and human rights.

Ibrahim Spahic
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.”

THE SIEGE
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.

Sarajevo?
Sarajevo!

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?
In Sarajevo.

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?
Yes.

What did ’92 look like, and ’93, and ’94?
And ’95?

How would you call this period of your life?
Magma.

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?

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