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cause of the bosnian warThe Bosnian War began in 1992 and lasted until 1995, though the cause of the Bosnian War has roots in World War II and its impact is still being felt in 2017. The war led to the deaths of around 100,000 people. It also spurred the genocide of at least 80 percent Bosnian Muslims, also called Bosniaks.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Balkan states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia became a part of the People’s Republic of Yugoslavia, a communist country held together by its leader Josip Broz Tito. Part-Croat and part-Slovene, Tito checked both separatism and ethnic nationalism with stiff jail sentences.

Tito rebuilt Yugoslavia as a Communist federation of six equal republics, but the ethnic conflict was never far from the surface. Serbians disliked Tito’s recognition of the Macedonians and the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina as distinct nationalities. However, these bad relationships alone were not the cause of the Bosnian War. The collapse of Communism in the Balkan states was punctuated by Tito’s death in 1980. Following this, the Balkan states clamored for independence.

Slobodan Milosevic rose to power in Yugoslavia in 1986 as a lightning rod for nationalism. Milosevic was a leader who deliberately created conflict between Serbians, Croatians and Muslim Bosniaks (the three main ethnic groups in the region). Milosevic, also called “The Butcher of the Balkans” took advantage of the ethnic tensions that would be the cause of the Bosnian War.

Croatia and Slovenia fought alongside Germany and Austria in World War I, while Serbia fought alongside the allies. Because of this, Serbs regarded themselves as the dominant partners when they joined the Croats and Slovenes in 1918 to found the state what would be called Yugoslavia.

By using old grudges, stirring up nationalistic emotions, and inciting dreams of a “Greater Serbia,” a country made up of only Serbians, Milosevic succeeded in rallying support for himself. By 1971 in Bosnia, Muslims represented the largest single population group. In a 1991 census, Bosnia’s population of some four million was nearly half Bosniak.

Bosnia’s Serbs, led by a man named Radovan Karadzic and backed by Milosevic, resisted and threatened bloodshed when Bosnia proclaimed its independence in 1992. The Serbs wished to remain part of Yugoslavia and create a nation only for Serbians.

Two days after the European Community and the United States recognized Bosnia’s independence, the Serbian Democratic party — whose members wanted to be part of the “Greater Serbia” — launched an offensive with the bombardment of Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo.

The Bosnian War was marked by ethnic cleansing, with thousands of civilians killed and millions displaced. On July 11, 1995, Serbian forces attacked and overwhelmed the city of Srebrenica, a city the U.N. had designated as a safe haven in 1993. The forces separated the Bosniak civilians at Srebrenica, putting the women and girls on buses and sending them away while killing the men and boys on the spot or bussing them off to mass killing sites. An estimated 8,000 people died in the massacre.

Following this, awareness and international outcry over the war reached its zenith. In November 1995, the United States sponsored peace talks between the Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, resulting in the creation of a federalized Bosnia divided between a Croat-Bosniak federation and a Serb republic.

Tribunals over the war crimes committed during the war were established 23 years ago. Serbia only acknowledged the massacre of Srebrenica in 2004. Milosevic was jailed in 2002 on 66 counts of genocide and war crimes and died in his cell in March of 2006.

Last month in 2017, a Croatian general charged with war crimes had his sentence of 20 years upheld, and instead of submitting himself he chose to drink poison in the middle of the courtroom.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

 Bosnian War
Between the years of 1991 and 1992, the country of Yugoslavia suffered mass chaos as nationalism in six different regions of the country began to surge. This was due in large part to growing perceptions of ethnic distinctions and a faltering economy. This time gave rise to intense violence and ethnic cleansing throughout the region, resulting in the Bosnian War. Here are five things to know about the Bosnian War:

    1. On March 3, 1992, Bosnia (now Bosnia-Herzegovina) declared its independence from Yugoslavia, following in the footsteps of neighboring Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia from the previous year. The official beginning of the Bosnian War is typically marked as April 6, 1992, when Bosnian Serb forces invaded the capital of Sarajevo.
    2. Three primary ethnic groups were embroiled in the conflict: the Bosniaks, Bosnian Muslims who comprised more than 44% of the population; the Bosnian Serbs, who predominately practiced Eastern Orthodox Christianity (31% of the population) and Bosnian Croats, a Catholic minority who comprised 17% of Bosnia’s populace at the time.
    3. Reelected to the Serbian presidency in 1992, Slobodan Milošević encouraged rising nationalist sentiments within the region and backed the attacks on Sarajevo, as well as the siege on Srebrenica on July 11, 1995. Serbian forces invaded the town, which had previously been designated a safe haven by the U.N., and separated the Muslim Bosniaks from the rest of the population. The women and girls — many of them raped and sexually assaulted — were bussed to nearby villages, while the remaining 8,000 Muslims were murdered and left in mass graves.
    4. By the end of 1993, Bosnian Serbs controlled 70% of the country, and most Bosnian Croats had fled. The term “ethnic cleansing” arose, a painful euphemism for the thousands that had been expelled, tortured, raped and murdered at the hands of Serbian forces. Many were forced into concentration camps, while vestiges of Bosniak culture, including places of worship and sites of cultural importance, were destroyed.
    5. In May 1993, the U.N. created the first war crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg Trials in 1945-1946, which indicted Nazi officials for crimes against humanity. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged more than 160 individuals for their participation in the violence, including Slobodan Milošević, who was tried and convicted in 2002 of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. He was found dead in his prison cell in The Hague in 2006 following a heart attack.

From 1992 to 1995, the Bosnian War claimed the lives of roughly 100,000 people, 80% of whom were Bosniak — the worst act of genocide since the Holocaust. To date, almost 120,000 of the original 2.2 million people displaced by the conflict still live in bleak conditions in refugee centers far from their homes.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr