THE FALL OF SREBRENICA // 07. 1995.
MERDZANA IGLICA // TRANSLATOR
ORAL HISTORY - INTERVIEW
ORAL HISTORY - TRANSCRIPT

July 1995

Merdzana Iglica
Translator
THE FALL OF SREBRENICA

‘Suddenly we found ourselves completely blocked in the middle of the Igman trail. It wasn’t only us, not only our convoy, but also a long column of other people. Later we learnt that it was exactly when Srebrenica fell and that the president was supposed to get out of town using the Igman trail, because there was no other way. And that’s why the trail was so blocked. The night fell. The situation was terrible. What one saw was like, I don’t know how to describe it, fireworks, like the Bartholomew night, I guess. They were firing from all sides, from the Gavrica mountain, from Lukavica, from Ilidza, they were also using those rockets that illuminated the trail so that they could get a better aim. I was with the convoy that transported children’s food to Sarajevo. There came that colonel who was from some other French unit looking frantically for an interpreter. They pointed me out. I asked him what it was about and he said he had to get down to Sarajevo and that he had some prisoners and he didn’t say much more except that it was imperative that he went down. And that I should talk to the people who were manning the barricade, to our fighters at the barricade. Who were under orders not to let anybody through because the arrival from below was expected any moment? And you know how narrow the trail was. And risking serious misunderstandings because of the situation we managed to convince him to be patient and wait. And then at last the president’s car and escort went by. By now it was late at night. And then the stampede started, everybody tried to get down, because there was that terrible shooting. Everybody frenetically tried to get down. It was a situation totally without any control and then the colonel came to me and said one thing, because in that situation it was only the Bosnians who tried to keep their composure, sort of. And he said, because everybody was terribly frightened, the French and the Norwegians or whatever, the Norwegians or the Swedes, those boys were so scared that they were sick, they threw up. He said he had been through a lot in Africa and all kinds of battlefields but he had never seen tougher people than us. And that that evening it was more than clear to him.’

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TOPIC RELATED TEXT

JULY 1995


• Member of the Presidency of BiH Ejup Ganic is injured in a serious car accident in Croatia.
• UNPROFOR headquarters shelled. The shell hits the kitchen of the “blue helmets”. Two 105mm shells were fired.
• Immediately following the resolution of the “hostage crisis” the exclusion zone for heavy artillery around Sarajevo collapses, and the siege intensifies.
• German parliament votes to engage “tornado” fighter jets and military personnel with the aim of supporting the UN operation in Bosnia. This is the first time since the Second World War that Germany dispatches armed troops.
• Douglas Hogg: “In Bosnia we are not on the side of the Bosnian Serbs. We (the U.K. government) blame the Serbs for the collapse of the former Yugoslavia, and the Bosnian Serbs for the crimes that have occurred in BiH.” The only possible way to prevent Karadzic’s Serbs′ bombardment of Sarajevo is “the use of air power”. The RRF does not impose peace, nor fight for any side.
• Pest control using paraffin cubes. In besieged Sarajevo, the ratus ratus (black rat) and ratus norveginus (grey rat) prevail. The toxin is effective in killing small house mice. One pair of rats can produce 800.
• Pale asks Germany to change its thinking on its participation in the RRF forces.


• Savage killing of civilians. 12 dead, 67 wounded.
• In the past month, Bosnian Serbs have hijacked UNPROFOR equipment worth 50,000,000 DM.
• Ministry of Education: “Starting Monday students cannot go to school. Arrangements over telephone will continue. We must find secure spaces for exams.”


• July 3rd marks a full three years since the start of the “air bridge” operation. Every flight from Sarajevo airport must seek approval from Karadzic’s Serbs.


• In a secret meeting, the Serbs request from the UN that the UNHCR stop using the road on Igman or its convoys will be fired upon from Serb positions. If the UN uses the Kiseljak road, 50% of humanitarian aid must be diverted to Serbs, announces Chris Janowski, spokesman for UNHCR.
• In increasingly shorter periods between shells, Sarajevans fight a battle for survival. They are citizens in the most dangerous city in the world.


• Charles Millon: “In Sarajevo and the other 'safe areas' it has become unbearable to watch such drastic violations of human rights, restriction of movement and the horrors of daily bombardment.”


• Bosnian Serb planes attack Bihac and Ostrozac. They are not protected by NATO.


• Charles Millon: “An urgent decision must be made to lift the siege of Sarajevo. We can no longer accept the indiscriminate bombardment of the city.”
• Carl Bildt: “There is no possibility for a military solution to the crisis. Only a peaceful solution is possible for BiH.”


• On the road on Igman the Serbs fire at Bildt’s convoy.
• Kresimir Zubak: "The HVO and ARBiH launched a joint action, but this is not a one-day operation .”
• Marines in the southern Adriatic. Regardless of UN and NATO troops, U.S. President Bill Clinton has sent 2,000 marines, amphibious units, transport aircraft, “Harrier” fighter jets, and helicopters.


• Civil Defense: Sarajevo-based firms agree to sew cloth for visual covers that will in the coming days be placed at certain points in the city.


• Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica.
• The Pope demands an end to the war in Bosnia over violations of basic human rights, and asks those responsible to justify their actions before God. The culprits will be damned, he states. “How can one be responsible for such violence and still answer the truth when asked by the true judge: What did you do for your fellow man? In the name of God I seek peace, justice and compassion. How can those who have been preventing food from reaching the mouths of thousands of hungry people justify themselves?”


• The local commander of Bosnian Serb forces tells the commander of the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica that its 42,000 inhabitants, as well as the Dutch troops are surrounded, and that they need to leave Srebrenica by Tuesday morning.
• New York, July 11, 1995. The UN Security Council urges all sides to respect the status of Srebrenica as a “safe area”.
• Sarajevo: last round of humanitarian aid distributed on June 9: 400 grams of beans, 300 grams of peas, 200 grams of rice, 2 dl of oil, 1 kg of flour.
• Water: water accumulates for 15 days that could be redirected to other parts of the city, This is industrial water.
• Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “We are ready if necessary to use force.”


• The Bosnian Serb Army enters Srebrenica. The inhabitants flee to Potocari. Chris Janowski: “This is a catastrophe that we hoped would not happen.” NATO strikes delayed.


• The UN Security Council declared Srebrenica a “safe area" and previously disarmed the ARBiH. The Dutch Defense Minister admits they have requested from Brussels that NATO air strikes be halted because of terrorist threats made by the Bosnian Serbs who have taken 30 Dutch soldiers hostage. After Srebrenica, the UN loses all of its dignity, with no sense left in the UNPROFOR mission. Nor are there any more “safe areas”.
• Jacques Chirac: “If the UN requests it, France is ready for a military intervention, if the opportunity arises to reestablish the status of a ′safe area', in the Srebrenica enclave, whose area has been taken over by Serb forces.”
• Susan Sontag in Sarajevo: “Bosnia has lost ground in the media sphere because it’s an unending tragedy.”
• Sarajevo: after pest control, the mice no longer live here.
• Flour in the city will last five more days, nor will there be oil at that point.


• The Bosnian Serbs commit horrible crimes in Srebrenica. Slaughter, rape, arson.
• Sarajevo: reception at the French embassy marking Bastille Day.


• The fate of 10,000 people in Srebrenica is uncertain.
• Negative response from the allies to French President Chirac’s proposal to take action in Srebrenica. He compares it to shrinking from Hitler’s aggression.


• The Presidency of BiH, makes a decision to stop cooperating with Akashi or Stoltenberg, as they consider them responsible for the tragic developments in BiH, especially in Srebrenica.
• NATO frustrated by the dual key system. The Serbs attack a UNPROFOR convoy with flour for Sarajevo. UNPROFOR returns fire. The exchange lasts one hour.


• General mobilization in the Zepa “safe area”.
• “Krug 99” releases an appeal to the intellectuals of the world: “There are tens of thousands of refugees from Srebrenica – women, children and the elderly. Does this touch upon your intellectual and moral conscience? Raise your voices against this crime, pillaging and terrorism…”
• Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “Can we keep the peace when the protagonists want war? Can we set ourselves between troops when they only want conflict?”
• Parapsychologist, Melke Mensur Adilovic, looks into the future: water, gas and electricity and the opening of Sarajevo will occur by the end of the year; by '96 refugees will return. If you call 600 617 you receive an automated answer with his voice. “I don’t know who he is, but he brightened my day,” says one woman from Sarajevo.
• Charles Millon, the French defense minister, calls for the formation of a multinational force to defend Gorazde and Sarajevo, and seeks the involvement of the U.K, the U.S, and Germany.
• General Rupert Smith releases a letter of protest to Bosnian Serb Army Commander Ratko Mladic on the attack on Zepa.
• Kasparov plays for the “Bosna” chess club. They win the European club championship. Kasparov says that he played for “Bosna” as a symbolic gesture, because he is on the side of those who, despite heedless aggression, try to live honorably and with dignity and fight for the preservation of priceless value.


• Zepa puts up a resistance to artillery and infantry attacks and planes that sweep over the area of the SR Yugoslavia. Those from Zepa say that the peacekeepers there will share their fate.
• The Pope calls on all those of good will to help the sufferings of the people of Bosnia. He condemns the Serb attacks, which constitute a crime against humanity, and calls Bosnia one of the saddest pages in the history of Europe – the news and images arriving from Bosnia, especially those from Srebrenica and Zepa, clearly show how deeply Europe and humanity have fallen into an abyss of misery; no reason, no goal could justify such barbaric acts.
• Italy prepares to begin its role in Bosnia if it is requested to participate in international peacekeeping efforts.


• Meeting of EU foreign ministers: support for keeping UNPROFOR in Bosnia to preserve its role in protecting the “safe areas” Gorazde and Sarajevo, while at the same time paying heed to a realistic assessment of the military on the ground.
• A Dutch soldier, upon arriving to Holland from Srebrenica: “It’s hunting season there in full swing.”
• Food arrives to the city through an “alternative route”, through the tunnel.


• Ukrainian soldiers in Zepa disable part of the weapons in the armory to prevent their use by the ARBiH.
• A UN APC used to protect passengers crossing Tito street spends as much fuel in two to three days as “Velepekara” in one day to produce bread
• Cardinal Vinko Puljic walks on the city streets.
• “Liberation”: “The fall of Srebrenica is a defeat comparable to that of Napoleon’s at Waterloo in 1815.”
• Sarajevo: On the occasion of the tragedy in Srebrenica the Serb Civil Council announces: “To preserve a minimum of credibility, the international community must understand the tragedy in Srebrenica as a final warning, and that hesitation and indecisiveness will accomplish nothing towards peace in Bosnia or hindering the momentum of the aggression and genocide of the campaign for Greater Serbia.”


• 12,000 people disappear from Srebrenica. Izetbegovic requests an evacuation of the inhabitants of Zepa. UNPROFOR encounters difficulties in securing the number of vehicles required to arrange the evacuation from Zepa.
• Meeting of EU foreign ministers: Conclusions are reached on imperatives without corresponding measures for their realization – the unconditional restoration of the status of a safe area for Srebrenica.
• George Soros: “Maintaining a neutral position amid unhalted aggression against the civilian population was a humiliating experience for UN troops, as well the UN itself. When the UN finally requested NATO air strikes, its troops were used for the same reason they were originally sent there – they became hostages.”


• Theatre workers of Avignon sign a declaration requesting that the French government change the balance of forces in Bosnia; to lift the siege of Sarajevo, and to enforce peace. If after seven days no changes occur, they will call on their colleagues throughout Europe to join them in a hunger strike.
• The U.S. and its allies: the area of Gorazde under UN protection, and likely the next target of Serb attacks, needs to be defended.


• 30 Dutch soldiers leave Sarajevo.


• King Hussein of Jordan: “If the world does not act to stop the massacre of Muslims in Bosnia, I am ready to contribute a Jordanian peacekeeping force to the UN.”
• Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli premier, on a live TV program by telephone gives support to Bosnia and proposes joint action.
• The Civil Defense reminds Sarajevans: “If you wash your carpets or water your gardens, we will turn off the water for the entire area.”
• The private transport company “Zeba” provides Sarajevans with trips to and from the city, as well as the necessary paperwork for their departure.


• Conclusions of a meeting in Split at the Federation of BiH level: Declaration of the creation of the “Washington Agreement”; joint defense against Serb aggression; the achievement of a political solution in accordance with the efforts of the international community.
• The Pope: “Only a defensive war is just. If someone wishes to crush one’s life or right to live then it is just to defend oneself.”
• The inhabitants of Zepa announce: “Unless a number of residents of Zepa are evacuated, in 24 hours, we will, together with the members of the Ukraine battalion, commit collective suicide”.
• The International Red Cross readies blankets, lamps and containers in case of an evacuation.
• Sarajevo: Enough flour for six days arrives. Cooking oil, however, does not.
• Message from the London conference: do not cross the red line that the UN has drawn around Gorazde.
• The OIC will not comply with the arms embargo on Bosnia.
• Attack on a UN convoy; two French soldiers killed, three wounded.


• Fierce Serb offensive against Bihac. RRF forces are placed on Igman. France, the U.K. and the U.S. threaten massive air strikes if the Serbs continue attacking the UN “safe area.”
• Chirac: “The conclusions of the London conference are a substantial and decisive response to Serb aggression in BiH. The decisions must be implemented without delay and forcefully. The Serbs must understand that we will not compromise in terms of the survival of the Muslim population or the respect and dignity afforded the UN peacekeepers in Bosnia.”


• The Serbs torch the villages around Zepa.
• The London conference shows a strong will to defend Gorazde but does not define how this defense will be executed.
• NATO solves the problem of the dual keys: the dual key implies that the UNPROFOR commander must seek approval for air-strikes from his "political bosses”.
• The White House: the Western alliance – the U.K., France and the U.S. - threaten Karadzic with the use of air strikes to defend the “safe areas”.


• Civilians and defenders flee Zepa.
• The Hague: Indictments against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
• Sarajevo Mayor, Tarik Kupusovic: “The use of the Igman road does not mean the siege has been lifted.”
• Distribution of chlorine tables for water purification. Dobrinja receives 4 tablets per citizen.


• UN Envoy for Human Rights, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, resigns in protest of the neutrality and cowardice of the world in the face of the fall of Bosnian enclaves to the Serbs. He sends a letter to Boutros Boutros-Ghali: “One cannot credibly talk of human right while the international community and its leaders lack the courage and resolve to protect those rights.”


• HVO troops in Glamoc and Bosansko Grahovo. The Croatian Army is 20km from the rebel Croatian Serb capital of Knin.


• Moscow is against repealing the dual key command in Bosnia. Moscow is for the old procedure for the approval of air operations.

UNPROFOR

UNPROFOR, or for those who don’t know them: United Nations Protection Forces, were awaited as saviors when they first arrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina with their white vehicles and blue berets. As time went on, they proved to be powerless. Now they are helping in repairs of the infrastructure, in cleaning the city. They are also establishing bureaucratic rules of their own. In some instances proven to be good merchants, they are driving around in trucks, jeeps transporters. Children are climbing onto their vehicles, and soldiers are throwing them sweets. They transport wounded, bring humanitarian aid, drive from and to the airport. In short, nothing is done without them. UNPROFOR Headquarters is in the building of Communication Engineering at Alipasino polje. Soldiers are in the barracks which were formerly inhabited by the soldiers of the Yugoslav Peoples Army. The main Headquarters of the UNPROFOR’s commander is in a private villa. All these successions seem to be very natural.

THE UNPROFOR (the United Nations Protection Forces)

The role of the UNPROFOR was manifold. They served as hostages to the aggressor, they cleared the garbage, they rode in trams as a protection against snipers, they gave out sweets, brought flour, destroyed the surface of Sarajevo streets with their tanks and transporters, representing the only city transportation throughout a long period, they repaired electrical transmission lines, they controlled the airport... The most important form of the protection of citizens was driving the transporters next to them shielding them from the sniper fire while they were crossing the Tito street. For a long time they were the most significant part of the city’s commercial life because they were trading the goods available to them.

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