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Volume 2, No 3, Summer 1992 [back]

The War in Bosnia

Mamdouh Breika

President of Islamic Society, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland

How Islam came to Bosnia

Bosnia was invaded by the Ottomans in 1386, and after many battles it became a province of the Ottoman empire in 1463. That year witnessed the dramatic conversion of Bosnians to Islam. In an open field 36,000 families voluntarily accepted Islam. A voluntary mass conversion practically without parallel in the annals of Islam. Fifteen years after the mass conversion of Bosnia, thousands more converted at a similar public act in Herzegovina. By 1600, 60 percent of the population had become Muslim.

The Turkish conquest brought about enormous changes in Bosnian social patterns. Introduction of Ottoman administrative methods resulted in profound social and economic change. Eventually, there were nine sanjaks (provinces) ruled over by governors directly appointed by the sultan. Mining became a state monopoly: all mines were the private property of the sultan. The lot of the farmers, both tillers and grazers improved. Many involved in pastoral farming became tillers, and the spread of tillage invited immigration, thereby encouraging Serbs to emigrate from Serbia and settle in Bosnia.

Bosnia under Occupation

At the Congress of Berlin after the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, Bosnia and Herzegovina were assigned to Austria-Hungarian occupation, though they were still nominally two Turkish provinces. Annexation to the Austro-Hungarian Empire came on Oct. 7, 1908. A new constitution divided the electorate into three electoral colleges and assigned in each a fixed proportion of seats to the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Muslims. The resulting arousal of Serbian nationalism culminated in the assassination (June 28, 1914) of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand at Sarajevo by a Bosnian Serb student, an act which triggered the First World War.

At the end of the war, Bosnia and Herzegovina were annexed to Serbia on Oct. 26, 1918, as part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. In 1946 it became one of the six republics of Yugoslavia, which was a communist state. Although Tito, who headed Yugoslavia for several decades, was a Croat, the Serbs dominated the communist party and held most key positions, especially in the army. When Tito died, Yugoslavia was ruled by a collective presidency. In the years that followed his death, Milosevic became a powerful political figure in Serbia, promoting militant nationalism, calling for the establishment of Greater Serbia to encompass all the regions where Serbs lived.

Breakup of Yugoslavia

[Yugoslavia Map]

After the collapse of communism in Russia, four of the Yugoslav republics began to throw away the yoke of the communist state. After a brief fight with ill-prepared federal soldiers sent from Belgrade to stop them, the Slovenes were the first to win independence in June of last year. Croatia had to fight harder to win independence, when Serb militias backed up by the federal army seized villages on Croat soil and drove out non-Serbs. After fighting stopped at the end of last year, Croatia had won international recognition as a new state.

Independence of Bosnia

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, a referendum on independence was held on 29 February of this year. Sixty three percent of the 3.1 million electorate voted and 99.43 percent supported Bosnian independence. Orthodox Christian Serbs, who constitute a third of the population, boycotted the referendum.

The referendum was called on the insistence of the European Community (EC) who made a condition for its recognition of Bosnia as an independent state if a local referendum favoured independence. Both the EC and the USA eventually recognised Bosnian independence. The neighbouring republic of Serbia, which had already declared independence, condemned Bosnia for declaring independence and vowed to resist it.

Serbian onslaught

The Serbs began an onslaught against the Muslim and Croatian communities as they had done in the other republics of Yugoslavia. On the second day of Eid, they attacked the Bosnian town of Belina, and killed 1000 Muslims. Local Serbs joined in the attack. The Bosnians were at the disadvantage of having a short coastline and no adequate weapons or means of defending themselves against the sixth most powerful military machine in the world.

The Yugoslav forces masquerading as Bosnian Serbs captured the airport with easy supply routes from Serbia. From the hills surrounding Sarajevo, they have for several weeks subjected it to pounding by heavy machine and mortar fire. In the city, there are Serb localities full of Cheknics who can infiltrate into almost any part and start sniping on innocent civilians. They have also captured many Muslim-majority towns and villages. Over 40,000 Muslims have been murdered, most of whom were civilians including old men, women and children. Hundreds of thousands have become refugees. Many mosques have been destroyed including over 60 mosques in Sarajevo. Among the many atrocities committed by the Serbs in Bosnia was that in the city of Kraveska, they burnt alive 85 women and children alive in a cell by pouring petrol on them. In Sarajevo, they entered the maternity wing of the main hospital and slaughtered pregnant women and ripped them open and took out the unborn babies. In Moldika, they beheaded Muslim ladies, stuffed their heads on sticks. In Grutena, the Imam, Mustafa Leekonovitch was forced to make the cross in front of 500 of his followers. He refused, they beat him, he fainted. The Cheknics then poured alcohol down his throat. They beat him again. Then they beheaded him.

Who cares?

The foreign ministers of the Islamic Conference Organization met recently in Turkey, and, true to form, issued a meaningless declaration condemning Serbian aggression and promising humanitarian assistance to the people of Bosnia.

Only recently has the Western media begun to show some of the atrocities being carried out by the Serbs against the Muslims. But all we hear from Western politicians is a lot of pious and empty condemnations of Serbian aggression. But the "desert storm" which "liberated" the oil sheikdom doesn't blow the Bosnian way.

The attitude of many people in the West towards the value of human life, especially the life of a Muslim, was demonstrated in a recent news bulletin on B.B.C. TV. In that bulletin, the B.B.C. showed Serbian shelling of Sarajevo and the streets littered with dead bodies. Two items later it showed a piece on the capture and exportation of monkeys from South East Asia for experiments in the West. The news reader warned viewers of some disturbing scenes. But for the dead of Sarajevo, she found nothing disturbing.

Lord Carrington, chairman of the EC's "Peace" Conference on Yugoslavia, was reported to have said recently: "We cannot allow a fundamentalist state to be established in the middle of Europe (meaning in Bosnia)." He is pressing the Bosnian Government to accept the fait accompli of what has been grabbed of its territory especially by the Serbs as a precondition for a cease-fire.

Amnesty International went to Bosnia, and what they did was to ask the Bosnian authorities: "Why don't you exercise your prisoners a little bit more?"

The United Nations (or should it be properly called the United States), after procrastinating for weeks, has imposed an arms embargo on Serbia (and does anyone really believe that a state which has the sixth most powerful army in the world need to buy arms to fight a mainly lightly armed population of a neighbouring country?). The (In)Security Council has actually imposed a similar embargo on Bosnia and Croatia. It also censured Croatia for providing military assistance to the Croatian Bosnians. The UN chieftain, the Zionist agent, Boutros-Ghali, has even refused to sanction the evacuation on UN's so called humanitarian flights of the elderly and the children trapped in Sarajevo. The UN's so called peace plan is to wait until Bosnia is destroyed enough to facilitate its carving up.

©1992 anadolu
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