Serbs Force Bosniak Civilians to Assist in Ethnic Cleansing
Caught Behind the Lines: Bosniaks drafted into Serb army forced to assist in ethnic cleansing
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, p.A4
13 February 1993.
By Dusan Stojanovic
He is blind [photo], his face deformed by an explosion. He has been thrown out of his home and his country. As a Bosniak once forced by Serbs to fight his own people, he worries most about his honor.
“Maybe it’s better I cannot see myself in the mirror. I could not stand the reflection of shame and humiliation that I feel inside,” Sehovic said.
After the fighting erupted last year, rebel Serbs took Sehovic from his village near Trebinje in souther Bosnia and forced him to fight against Croats and his fellow Bosniaks.
In July, a grenade explosion ripped open his skull and destroyed his eyes.
Last month, he was caught up in a Serb terror campaign that drove some 4,000 Bosniaks from their homes in southern Bosnia.
He languishes in a tiny hotel room jammed with 20 other refugees in this Muslim enclave [of Sanjak] across the border in the province of Montenegro. His forehead appears dented, his eye sockets are open wounds. He has had no medical care since emergency surgery in July.
The Serbs have been blamed for most of the atrocities. Their latest campaign appears to have been inspired by a proposed international peace plan to divide Bosnia into 10 autonomous provinces, partly along ethnic lines.
Trebinje, a once-prosperous merchant town of 30,000 near the Adriatic port of Dubrovnik, would become a part of a Serb-dominated province.
Refugees say the Serbs who settled into their homes were brought in from Mostar and Capljina, which would fall under Croat control if the plan is adopted.
This was all a well-planned operation, the most blunt method of ethnic cleansing through intimidation,” said Sefket Arslanagic, director of Trebinje’s high school for 25 years.
On Jan. 27, Serbs torched Trebinje’s 300-year-old Osman Pasha mosque and prevented Bosniaks from trying to put out the fire, which burned for two days.
On Jan. 29, local Serb strongman Bozidar Vucurovic lifted a year-old ban on Muslims leaving the area and “signed notices allowing us to go, quickly providing buses and all the necessary papers, saying he could no longer guarantee our safety,” Arslanagic said.
“We were allowed to carry only a handbag each. All of our other belongings had to remain behind,” he said. “As I was moving out of my house, literally on the doorstep, a Serb family was moving in.”
Refugees say uniformed Serb gunmen went door to door in Trebinje and neighboring villages, threatening Muslims, bombing homes, raping women and stealing cars and other property.