SUN, 19 NOV 1995 20:37:12 GMT
Final Departure of Moslems and Croats from Banjaluka
"During the past year 12,000 Moslems and Croats left through the Office alone. Mostly they do not wish to stay on the territory of former Yugoslavia, but want to go abroad. We maintain radio and phone links with the Moslem and Croat sides. In principle, we never had any problems. We observe what was agreed, we transfer some people, sit down and have a drink. And that's that". These are the words of Radovan Glogovac, Chief of the Emigration Office in Banjaluka.
AIM, Beograd, November 12, 1995
In Banjaluka there are no collective centers for the remaining Moslems and Croats, they do not wear a yellow ribbon, or a white band around their sleeves, but their lives are in danger. Unidentified people in uniforms forcibly throw them out of their flats, they get late night phone calls and threats, armed men knock on their doors. And while the majority of Serbian refugees, the number of which has probably grown, bravely endure their misfortune still under the open sky, some of the newcomers cannot suppress their anger with the fact that, allegedly "Balias and Ustashi" are being protected, while they had to leave all their belongings behind. Summarily they throw people out of their houses, often not allowing them to take even the bare necessities. They rob everything and then continue their journey towards Serbia.
Smacks and a Knuckle-Duster
The Office for Displacing Persons located in the settlement of Mejdan is the last address in Banjaluka to which the Moslems and Croats come these days. In the last couple of years this Office organized the emigration of those who "wanted" that. People constantly come asking for the time of departure. The direction is Bocac and after that Croatia, while the Moslems go towards Travnik.
- "There were two policemen. One from Mrkonjic Grad, the other from Kljuc. I showed them my papers, those proving that my son, although a Moslem, is in the army of the Republic of Srpska as well as those on my tenant's rights. They tore them to pieces. I was thrown out of my flat and, here, I managed to take out only what I have on me. But, what I would like most is to die in my native Banjaluka", - tells us eighty-eight years old Jusup Jusupovic, denizen of Banjaluka, in the Office for the Displacement of Persons, Dislocation and Exchange of Material Resources in Banjaluka.
He came to report as he was leaving. Asked where he was heading to - he shrugs his shoulders. He has one son in Germany, but he will most probably go to his relatives in Travnik. - "My fellow citizens from Banjaluka, the Serbs, never touched me. This is the work of those newcomers, " - says Jusupovic. - "We go over Bocac. The Moslems pay DM 160 for the transportation, plus DM 20 for each bag, and the Croats DM 60, while the price per bag is the same".
Branislava Z. is of Serb nationality, her husband is a Croat. They have two children, a 12 year-old son and an 18 year-old daughter.
-"We do not know where we are going, nor what are we going to do. Why didn't they invent a state for mixed marriages? It's all the same who would rule. Why don't they leave us in peace", - she asks.
They scraped together the money for the journey with great difficulty. Still, they did not wish to stay in Croatia. She heard that in Zagreb there were three collective centers for mixed marriages, wherefrom they are sent further on abroad. But, she does not hide that she fears the journey through the empty and plundered cities all over the Knin Krajina. - "We wouldn't be caught dead there," - says Branislava in the end.
Adila and Dzemal V. were evicted from their house a few days ago. They were beaten up before that. They slapped her in the face and hit her husband with a knuckle-duster. There were three of them, all armed and in uniforms. Adila only said that they were not from Banjaluka, but was afraid to add anything else about them.
-"We know that the Croats are not willing to accept us Moslems in Croatia, and we do not want to go to Bosnia. We are both from Banjaluka and are accustomed to living in a multinational environment. My husband was for some time on work duty here, he dug trenches on the front," says Adila. -"We even took in some Serbian refugees from Mrkonjic Grad. Those people were also sad to see what was going on, but they were unable to help. We did not take anything from the house and are presently staying with some friends Serbs".
Ankica and Vida Ilicic from Sanski Most also came to the Office for Displacement. They are both Croatian by nationality, their husbands are Serbs and are currently at the Serbian war theatre. They did not want to stay under the Moslem authorities in Sanski Most. They know that there is no future for them in Banjaluka either.
-"We have relatives in Croatia and shall try to reach them, and then on, abroad. But we would like most of all to go back to Sanski Most. We do not expect anything good in Croatia either. We know that to be a Croat from Bosnia is not the same as to be a native Croat. We heard that they move in our people into robbed Serbian houses in Glamoc and Grahovo. Well, I would rather die," - says Ankica.
We Have a Drink - and That's That
"Persons who do not wish to stay on the territory of the Republic of Srpska must have the approval of the Ministry of Defence and unregister with the Department of the Ministry of the Interior. And if they have a socially-owned flat, they have to put it at the disposal of the Serbian authorities. In addition, they must submit a written request with an application for departure", says Radovan Glogovac, head of this Office.
Glogovac emphasizes that bad things are going on in the town, which escape control because of the large number of refugees from Krajina. He points out that most of the police force is on the front lines, while only a small number is here to protect the town from hoodlums.
-"We have cases of evicted Moslems and Croats who were returned to their houses. But, after bad experiences these people mostly wish to go, they are afraid to stay here. This Office started working in May 1992. Its work was suspended for seven-eigth months during 1994. The greatest number of non-Serbian people who wanted to leave reported after the fall of the Knin Krajina. One of these days we intend to introduce the free of charge transportation of these people to their destinations.
The procedure takes two days to complete. Then it all depends on the Moslem and Croat sides - when they will give the green light for transfer to their territory. Glogovac was unable to say how many Moslems and Croats exactly left Banjaluka because they went through the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNHCR, and many private agencies who organized their departure, often for a high price.
-"During the last year 12,000 Moslems and Croats left through the Office. They mostly do not wish to stay on the territory of former Yugoslavia, but want to go abroad", says Glogovac. -"We maintain radio and phone links with the Moslem and Croat sides. In principle, we never had any problems. We observe what was agreed, we transfer some people, sit down and have a drink. And that's that."
What happens with these unfortunate and tormented people then?
Glogovac emphasizes that UNHCR confirmed that the Moslems who lately crossed over to the Croatian place Davor over the Sava river, were mobilized and sent to the Bihac and Travnik war theatres. He claims that before the fall of the Knin Krajina, as well as a part of Serbian territory, the Croatian side was not interested in the Croats from Banjaluka, so that for a while it did not accept them. On the other hand, the Moslem side willingly took in the Moslem inhabitants, but was unwilling to let the Serbs go from its territory. He himself left Zenica illegally, walking over fields and swamps for twelve days.
As Far from Here as Possible
Ethnic cleansing of Moslems and Croats in Banjaluka has continuously been going on ever since war broke out, in greater or lesser intensity and has now been brought to its end. In Slavonia at the beginning of the war in September 1991 when mobilization started in the town, many members of all the three nations who did not feel like fighting, left.
Later on, when the war started spreading in Bosnia, Moslems were demanded to "sign their allegiance". Instead of being soldiers in what until yesterday was the Yugoslav People's Army, for the sake of survival (to save the lives of their family, old parents or their property), some agreed to become soldiers of the Republic of Srpska. It was hardest on those whose children had left these territories. But it was not easy either for those who did not want to go to war, nor leave Banjaluka. There was no paper that could protect them. Those who did not agree, could not get their military service book verified, their family members lost their jobs and hence a flat or house. They could leave only "voluntarily".
And those Moslems and Croats who fought in the Serbian army finally also left because of "the never ending war, utterly absurd and sensless" (as they said), as well as of their half-starved families and the impossibility to live any longer under the illusion that things would nevertheless return to normal. They were eager to get to some foreign country through Croatia and finally settle down, but were forced into different uniforms on the other side.
The situation drastically deteriorated for the remaining Moslems and Croats of Banjaluka with the fall of western Slavonia, the Knin Krajina and a large part of the Bosnian Krajina. Thousands of angry refugees came to the town. Predrag Radic, M.A., Mayor of Banjaluka, warned the newcoming refugees that they should leave the local non-Serbian population alone, especially those who had someone fighting in the war.
How valid this warning was is best shown by the resignation of those last to leave. Still vivid were memories of the period when Croat or Moslem houses were riddled by bullets or blown up by explosives during night. At this moment the town is without electricity which further aggravates the situation. Whispering, people claim that it is no longer possible to know who comes from which part and fear meeting members of all sorts of different police forces. Also, many bullying, armed, uncontrollable and nervous men have become rich on other people's property. Proof are well stocked commission shops.
The Moslems and Croats from Banjaluka are bitter as no one protected them. Even today people in Banjaluka remember how Adolf Pihler a bishop of Banjaluka for many years did not shrink from fiercely opposing the persecution of Serbs from Banjaluka during the NDH (Independent State of Croatia) in World War II. He appealed to Ante Pavelic himself. There are still stories of the petition of twenty renowned Moslems and Croats of Banjaluka of that time written against the persecution of the Serbs.
During these years of hardship for the non-Serbian population only the weak Liberal Party, headed by its President Miodrag Zivanovic, Ph.D.,professor of philosophy, condemned the persecutions and warned of all the consequnces of the "blood and soil".
And Sabahudin Karic waits every night for a knock on his door. He put up Serbian refugees in his house, but to no avail. Some uniformed men came several times. He has prepared to go, but is afraid of what is waiting for him on the other side. Namely, he spent two years in the Serbian army.
-"I mostly grieve for my children. We have not slept for nights. I have two best friends left: a Croat and a Serb. If politicans got along as the three of us do, everything would be great", - says Sabahudin Karic. -"I have papers to go to America and only want to be safe when I get to the Croatian side. The situation everywhere on the territory of the former Yugoslavia is the same, and it will be so as long as national parties are in power. I want to take my family as far from here as possible. I am tired of living in this madness for the fifth year now and when the war stops we will all live in poverty and misery. And I will keep memories of my native Banjaluka as it was before the war. Memories are the only thing many of us have left".
(AIM) Radmila Karlas