A JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL // 11. 1994.
MUHAMED GUTIC // CITIZEN
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

November 1994

Muhamed Gutic
Citizen
A JOURNEY THROUGH THE TUNNEL

‘The night fell over Debelo Brdo, through Igman forest to Osmice. There was a point where everyone would stop and where the passengers that traveled through Igman would split into two groups. The first group went by foot through one ditch to Hrasnica carrying their stuff, and the second group that had more courage, more luck or more insanity. I had no idea what that meant. The other group would go in some vehicle from Osmice to Hrasnica. With all those bags, backpacks and everything, I had no chance of succeeding in breaking through that ditch. So we stopped one car. The driver had planned to go down through Igman the next day, at four in the morning. I asked him if he was afraid. He said, ‘of course I'm afraid, who wouldn't be’. It was dark when we left with the lights off, because using the lights would mean certain death. The car was in neutral and we slid from one curve to another in silence until we got to Hrasnica and pretty close to tunnel. ‘How am I going to carry all this stuff through the tunnel?’ I sat down and wrote my name on my bags. ‘If I don't succeed, if my heart can't handle it, at least someone might bring this food to my family because they were hungry and they needed every kilo of that food. And I will go slowly through the tunnel.’ There was a crowd in front of the tunnel, the people were nervous. A few shells hit some houses nearby. The army was nervous, and the sherpas were nervous. That is what we called the people who carried stuff through the tunnel for money. I had no money to pay the sherpas, so I packed my stuff on my back. The first 300 meters were not so hard. The men still had their strength and the ceiling was high. But then the tunnel narrows to 160 and then to 130 cm. The thoughts you get in the tunnel, it is unbelievable how you can think when you're not sure that you're going to come out. The air is humid. It is hard to breathe. I was tired. I said, ‘Why is it necessary that I go through in 15 minutes? I can do it in two hours’.’

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NOVEMBER 1994


• The Army of BiH liberates the mountains of Bjelasnica and Treskavica, near Sarajevo. United States rejects the idea of General Rose to strike the ARBiH.


• Kupres is liberated with the combined forces of the HVO and ARBiH.
• From Osmica on Igman buses travel to Zagreb, Split and Zenica.
• New York, November 5th, 1994 a new resolution on Bosnia adopted in which the UN General Assembly urges the Security Council to lift the arms embargo on Bosnia, if over the next six months the Bosnian Serbs do not sign a peace treaty. 97 countries vote in favor of the resolution, while 61 countries in the General Assembly refrain. No country votes against.


• The ARBiH counters the renewed attack on Sarajevo. NATO planes fly low, and fighting ceases.
• The average wage in the city is 2 DM; for a family approximately a 350 DM salary is needed.


• The financier and philanthropist, and founder of the "Open Society Foundation", George Soros accuses UNPROFOR Commander General Michael Rose, for being pro-Serb. "UNPROFOR has become the kapo of a concentration camp."


• U.S. will no longer oversee the arms embargo on the Government of BiH. The command is issued to the U.S. Navy to no longer intercept ships carrying weapons for the Government of BiH.


• "Miss World" pageant held in South Africa. President Nelson Mandela is surrounded by 87 beauties.


• In a speech at the Royal Geographical Society in London, Lord Owen says: "Humanitarian intervention was a fatal mistake. Without humanitarian aid, the war would have already finished."


• Radovan Karadzic’s message to Croatia, "I will bomb Zagreb if you continue to support the Muslims around Bihac."
• Secretary General of NATO, Willy Claes: "The time has come for action."


• NATO bombs the airport in Udbina. 30 planes fly in the mission. All planned objectives are hit: the runway is destroyed, while the aircraft are intact. SAM 7 missiles are fired at NATO planes. The aim of the operation: prevention of future attacks by the Serb army on Bihac. It was at the time biggest action undertaken by NATO in its history.


• William Perry: "If they again carry out a bomb attack, we will return and destroy their planes." Michael Rose: "We are here to help deliver humanitarian aid and maintain the survival of the surrounding areas, and in addition we are here to support the legitimate government of this country. Because of this, unfortunately, from time to time we need to use force in self-defense, and to support the territorial exclusion zone." Akashi notifies the Bosnian Serb about the attack, and then travels to Pale to apologize for the attack.


• An even fiercer attack by the Bosnian Serb Army on Bihac follows. Buzim and civilian targets are bombed.
• Throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Bosnian Serbs block UN arms checkpoins and block UN movement.
• A tram is hit: one passenger killed, 6 wounded.


• NATO has offered the UN a number of solutions: for example, successive air strikes. The UN refuses. It turns out that the world's military potential will be employed in a rescue operation of the UN in Bosnia, not of Bosnia itself. The UN resolution on the “safe areas” and the ban on flights are violated.


• In the wartime cinema "Apollo" a festival is held: "Days of Swiss Film."
• Airport: Negotiations on a cease-fire. General Rose is the mediator in the negotiations. A ceasefire is agreed upon for the entire country. 2,000 U.S. Marines head to Bosnia to rescue the UN and to give support to NATO.


• Meeting: Willy Claes, Andrei Kozyrev, Haris Silajdzic. Kozyrev discusses Russian opposition to further punitive action.
• Vatican: Vinko Puljic appointed Cardinal.
• Sarajevo shelled.


• The Fifth Corps of the ARBiH manages to repel attacks in Bihac's Krajina. The UN fails to protect the Bihac "safe area". The UN: "We have only words, not the means."
• The U.S. Congress, Newt Gingrich: "If we want to break the will of the Serbs, then NATO should lead an action to break down the will of the Serbs. Occasional tactical strikes are extremely ineffective in intimidating the enemy, which is a lesson from Vietnam. "
• The Bosnian Serbs blocked 495 UN personnel throughout Bosnia.
• The Queen of England wins $17.70 in the lottery, which divided between 18 members of her court.


• The French Library opens in Sarajevo.

THE TUNNEL

The Dobrinja-Butmir tunnel, a hole some 1.2 meters wide, 1.6 meters high and 760 meters long, is situated under the Sarajevo airport runway. In the official communication between local politicians and UNPROFOR this public secret has been referred to as “the non-existent tunnel”. Foreigners were not allowed into the tunnel and journalists were offering up to 5.000 DM for just one shot of the tunnel. Although the tunnel was an military object and intended solely for the army’s getting in and out of town, the privilege of using it was extended to the American ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Viktor Jakovic, who the aggressor did not allow to leave the city by plane. The tunnel was also used to get the members of Parliament from other towns into the city. Many of them were easily recognized during the sessions of Parliament because they had bruises on their foreheads from hitting the iron support bars within the tunnel. Some comfort was extended to the most respected politicians who were pushed through the tunnel in small wagons.
The commercialization of the tunnel brought about great changes in the economic life of the city. The tunnel became a place full of people dragging bags with potatoes o eggs. Many tradesmen were allowed to “rent” the tunnel from the army. Thanks to the tunnel many became rich, but the prices also fell within the city. The aggressor also knew about the secret tunnel and by continuously shelling its entrance it hampered its usage. They even tried to dig another tunnel of the other side of the airport in order to redirect the Zeljeznica river and flood the tunnel. In spite of everything the hole under the airport became the greatest public good of the city and it’s only link with the rest of the world. If one managed to get a permit to go through the tunnel he or she would be greeted at the exit by a marker-written sign: PARIS 3765km.

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