CONVOYS ON STAND-BY // 04. 1993.
HAJRUDIN SMAJIC // EVACUATION OFFICE
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

April 1993

Hajrudin Smajic
Evacuation Office
CONVOYS ON STAND-BY

‘The Office for Care of the Sick, Old and Disabled organized the first convoy. There was always had to be a dual movement one to Lukavica for Serbia and one to Split for Croatia. There was a holdup because of fighting between the Croat Council of Defense and the BH Army. The convoy had to wait two days and then it moved.’

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APRIL 1993


• Kosevsko cemetery is reopened after 27 years due to the lack of space for the burials of victims of snipers and shells.
• New York, April 1, 1993. The UN Security Council passes a resolution approving the use of force in enforcing a no-fly zone over BiH. At the insistence of the Russian delegation, a paragraph in the resolution is modified so that the use of force applies only to air and not ground targets.


• Cyrus Vance withdraws from his role as mediator in the peace negotiations over BiH. He is succeeded by Thorvald Stoltenberg.
• PTT reaches an agreement with UNHCR on sending and receiving letters through its weekly humanitarian flights on the Sarajevo-Split route.


• The Bosnian Serb Parliament rejects the Vance-Owen plan. The EC gives them a new deadline, April 15th, to accept the plan.


• In Sarajevo the Jewish holiday of Passover is celebrated.


• 5,000,000 copies of “Oslobodjenje” are released over several continents.


• In the midst of an offensive by Bosnian Serbs on Srebrenica the international community proposes stronger pressure on the Serbs.


• UNHCR report on the airport runway: six killed while crossing.
• The PTT secures a satellite telephone exchange but cannot transport it into the city.
• In the city business spaces are stolen so that cafes and pubs can be opened. This is the most sought after asset on the market in the besieged city.


• Susan Sontag arrives to Sarajevo and meets with artists and intellectuals.


• George Soros’ foundation establishes a satellite telephone exchange for communication between Sarajevo and the outside world, through America.
• MUP establishes a new traffic system due to the large number of snipers on Strahimir Kranjcevic street.
• Joan Baez comes to Sarajevo. Her arrival is part of a campaign to bring world-famous people to Sarajevo to bear witness on behalf of the world to the fate of a European city at the end of the 20th century.
• Start of the Easter football cup. The football club “Bosna” wins the cup, and in reward receive the cup and a box of eggs.
• In Zvornik, which is under the control of the Bosnian Serbs, Serbian women dressed in black block the arrival of humanitarian aid for Srebrenica, headed by General Morillon.


• The George Soros’ foundation” distributes 16,000 bags of seed for the citizens of Sarajevo to plant in “gardens of survival”. The municipal headquarters of the Civil Defense in Novi Grad allocates plots of arable land to citizens, but without compensation.
• Easter mass is held at the Sarajevo Cathedral.
• Dr William Wagman donates his collection of phonograph records to RTVBiH.


• In an attack by the Bosnian Serb Army in Srebrenica, hundreds are killed in Srebrenica. The UN removes General Morillon from duty.
• OSBiH Commander Sefer Halilovic sends a letter to Croatian Army generals Bobetko and Petkovic. It concerns a convoy of arms for the OSBiH, which had been blocked by HVO forces, and which were intended for the rescue of Srebrenica: “You got 25 % of the arms, by agreement, and because of that you will be complicit in the crimes against Srebrenica.”


• Islam Dzugum, a marathon runner, trains for the Mediterranean Games in Montpelier for the 25 km race.


• The transportation company “Gras” prepares for peace, with reconstruction projects on shattered Trebevic.
• New York, April 18, 1993. The UN Security Council adopts the text of a resolution declaring Srebrenica a protected zone. This decision anticipates that the aggressor forces, the Bosnian Serbs, will withdraw, while peacekeepers will assume responsibility for the defense of the civilian population.
• The Canadian UNPROFOR battalion arrives in Srebrenica. Bosnia lives from one threat to the next, from one promise to the next.
• New York, April 19, 1993.
The UN Security Council adopts a new resolution which imposes tougher sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro if by April 26th Karadzic has not signed the Vance-Owen plan. According to this resolution, the marine transport of goods to or from the SR Yugoslavia is forbidden, aside from humanitarian aid with the requisite approval of the UN Committee for Sanction. Land transport can only take place at only a limited number of road and railway border crossings, also only with the permission of the UN Committee for Sanctions. River traffic on the Danube outside of Yugoslav borders is also banned. Foreign vessels that enter through the Danube into the FR Yugoslavia must be inspected and receive approval by the UN Committee for Sanctions. Twelve miles from the Adriatic coast a sailing prohibition is imposed on the FR Yugoslavia, meaning that no ship will be able to enter its territorial waters except under extraordinary circumstances and with special permission. All funds held abroad by the FR Yugoslavia are frozen. All traffic and transport vehicles found outside the borders of the FR Yugoslavia are retained and possibly subject to confiscation if found in violation of the sanctions. The same measures also apply to transport vehicles of other countries that violate the sanctions. The resolution further prohibits financial or any other ties with the FR Yugoslavia with the exception of telecommunications, legal ties or its postal system. Services related to humanitarian assistance or any other special occurrence must be undertaken with the approval of the UN Committee for Sanctions.


• Process of demilitarization in Srebrenica. Working group meeting at the Sarajevo airport. If the Bosnian Serbs attack, the UN will protect its people.
• Start of the “Sarajevo Winter” festival.
• The HVO fires at the hydroelectric plant in Jablanica, breaking off power lines to Sarajevo.


• The HVO commits war crimes against the Muslim citizens in Central Bosnia.


• The President of the self-proclaimed state of Herzeg-Bosnia, Mate Boban, and the President of the Presidency of BiH, Alija Izetbegovic, sign a new peace agreement.
• Radovan Karadzic, leader of the SDS announces: “If tonight we decide to sign the peace plan, the Serbian people will triumph, but if we decide not to, the Serbs will triumph regardless.”


• The Bosnian Serb Assembly rejects the peace agreement. This elicits the following reactions: the Secretary General of NATO Manfred Woerner advocates bombing the Bosnian Serb Army. Russian President Boris Yeltsin announces: “The Russian Federation will not protect someone confronted by the entire world community.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs BiH, Haris Silajdzic: “We cannot expect to fight against tanks with kitchen knives.”
• In Sarajevo an initiative is undertaken to revitalize the “Bentbasa” pool. Plans are immediately drawn up.


• The sanctions against the FR Yugoslavia are carried out: its borders are closed, assets and property frozen, and control is established over traffic on the Danube.
• Lord Owen: “It’s too early to bomb the Serb positions.”


• Meeting in London: Haris Silajdzic: “Let us defend ourselves. No one has the right to deny us that.”
• Slobodan Milosevic asks Radovan Karadzic and Momcilo Krajisnik to reconsider the decision of parliament, threatening to cut off economic aid. A new meeting of the parliament is scheduled for May 5th.

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.

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