After 23 years of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and after faltering transitional periods, and failure to prosecute and hold most war criminals and their trafficker politicians accountable, with economic difficulties, political coups and administrative complications, and a thorny constitution that divides powers between constituents in a way that restricts start-up, reintegration and construction,
Waleed Dezinoo who was a journalist and correspondent during the war and covered many of its devastating chapters. He covered the experience of war and the reconstruction of peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina coupled with the weaknesses and failures in the management of the state and society, despite the fragile peace and relative stability achieved.
Waleed who has worked in education sector for about 45 years says that “He witnessed for two decades the struggles of politicians, and the pain and complications of components emerging from the battles of genocide and marginalization, which left more than 100 thousand dead, and looking forward to coexistence, justice and democracy:
– A quarter of a century has passed after the bloody conflict and the years of infighting between the three components of Bosnia. Many shocking facts, complex events and political upheavals have taken place since then. After all this time, and in the course of the war the Serbian leaders said that they were trying to control all of Bosnia and impose the will of the Serbs with the use of force, killing and intimidation on the rest of the components of Muslims and Croats. They have lost their minds and lost their balance so as not to remember and or confuse the facts.
– We had to write everything accurately, we had to carefully collect and to write stories of battles and annihilation. We had to document the facts with all honesty, and record the statements and movements of political leaders, also record the stories of victims of war .. We did not do that except for a few times .. After years lots of facts were lost and facts have been distorted and many criminals have escaped being held accountable. Those are the people who control us today through their positions and their money. But of course there are things that can not be forgotten.
The Criminals have become leaders
Waleed adds and comments on the failure of the state in its qouta-based institutions, also highlights the imposition of transitional justice and the failure to hold many criminals and corrupt people accountable for achieving community peace:
– After a few years of the war, some criminals have been released from prison and went to political platforms and they have become leaders in their own areas. After years of committing numerous violations and sentencing them serving prison times, today they have become heroes for many people in the Balkans and they are voted in elections and people celebrate them for their sermons,their slogans and their fanatical positions .. Thus the majoritarian rule prevails at the hands of criminals and against the victims.
– Journalists and activists like politicians bear responsibility and are part of the failures to completely overcome the stage of conflict and achieve the reintegration of the peoples of Bosnia … The lack of courage among many journalists and their captivity to the directives of the leaders of their components and financial circumstances with the total control of the conflicting parties to the media, are all part of the failures. As well as the roles of international bodies overlapping their interests, and above all the constitution which is based on the basis of quotas and the division of powers between components.
– The war is still going on, despite the wounds of our physical being, the war continues through our continued division, the divisive continuation of our loyalties and not to address the mistakes of the past and to confront it strongly, and not to face the corrupt people.
– The question we posed with the end of the war in 1996 through international intervention was that we succeeded in ending the war and overcoming its destructive hands. But can we build peace in society?
– After all these years, we are still trying to build peace, amidst our major problems of fragmenting and divisive constitution, political and financial corruption and intolerance.
Fanatic leaders and media that deepen differences
Waleed, criticizing the Dayton constitution imposed by the international community on Bosnia after the war, said it was good for ending the war but not good for peace.
– We have many problems in the Dayton Agreement that imposed peace in Bosnia with international will. Today we have a failed state with restricted institutions and a society where peace is threatened by a transitional justice that is absent or implemented very slowly and not as required and signed in the agreements on Bosnia.
– There are successes such as the cessation of war and the establishment of international tribunals to try their criminals and impose a kind of peace and stability. But the problem is that the regime wanted to turn these courts into a mere piece of paper, so only a few dozen were prosecuted and thousands of others escaped. This contradicts transitional justice and reconstruction of civil peace.
– We have been living for 23 years in a state of “no war and no peace.” The reason is that we vote for the parties every time, for the media that continues to impose conflicts in this country and deepen conflicts in every opportunity and incident, and remind us of war on every occasion.
– The good ideas that we draw from the experiences of the years of war and beyond in the administration of the state, we ask the authorities, but unfortunately they inter in the one ear and get out of the other one. They do not listen. They only apply what corresponds to their own interests in the survival of division.
– Now and after the war there are attempts to apply democracy after decades of dictatorship, but the fact is that there are only multi-party rules representing the components. However, there are no real existence of democracy and pluralism, but the same line of unilateral rule and control of power.
Splintering of Journalists
Waleed notes the experience of journalists in Bosnia, the challenges they face and the mistakes they have made as the following:
– During the first half of the war, which lasted from 1992 to 1995, the Bosniacs (Muslims), the Serbs (Orthodox) and the Croats (Catholics) were working together in university media institutions and that pluralism participated in working for a one unified country. But in the second half of the war, each group preferred to approach and represent its national and religious group.
– The joint and pluralistic work of journalists at the beginning of the war was a cause for hope, but the confinement was what followed. This caused great damage to the discourse of coexistence and civil peace to the media and served as a catalyst for the extremist nationalist discourse that increased the divisions and added fuel to the fire of war.
– At the beginning of the war, in the town where I worked, there were Serbian journalists, Croats and Bosniacs, we worked together to establish newspapers, radio stations and even television stations with self-reliance and help and simple means to defend coexistence. But things changed later, many succumbed to financial requirements, others to national rhetoric.
– The war in Bosnia led to the dismantling of the media environment, to the creation of three different media areas divided into three conflicting parties, each of which has no relation to the other. Even with the end of the war, the division continued, but in another way after the quotas appeared in the media, each component had its share, which created weak and failed media and divided each section to address a specific components.
No option other than trying
Waleed warns of the growing danger of divisions descending into conflicts, in light of the conflict between political leaders driven by their interests and with the corruption and fanatic media discourse, and the rise of the Right parties in Europe:
– Because of the extremist national discourse and the waves of propaganda and rumors in the context of bad national media and the speeches of extremist leaders, social coexistence has been deeply affected and targeted. The families who have lived together and were in loving relationships have looked at each other with suspicion. There were deep distrust as a result of that discourse. Today we see that hope lies in young people and not in our generation. We have no choice but to restore coexistence. We can not achieve any political, administrative or economic progress without restoring that coexistence.
– Yes, the thorny constitution, which was imposed on the people of Bosnia, as well as political conflicts and corruption, stands against the individual efforts of journalists and intellectuals seeking to achieve reform, restoring of coexistence and reconstruction. Perhaps in the future this small circle of voices demanding correction and reform will grow and becomes influential in challenging the powerful leaders and the laws and the Constitution that divides society.
– After the war, journalists were marginalized. Today, police and politicians have a higher status and receive huge salaries, while neutral journalists and journalists who have worked to uncover the facts and who have been deprived of privileges receive low salaries. The politicians and the businessmen are the ones who own and lead the radio and television stations. Half of or %50 of the media stations now belong to the governorates and to the provinces (local governments) and the private ones, all of which are looking to advocates and advance for their own policies, which traverse so much with the re-coexistence among the components.
– I am subjected to multiple arrests, and the police tell me do not be afraid everything will be fine …. I sometimes laugh at them or at myself and just say: “Things were never good … trembling with pain and perhaps fear “I do not I fear anyone I fear only God”.
– After all, we cannot give up. We have no choice but to resist so as not to be part of the destructive divisive speech of the people of Bosnia. We have attempted to rectify the situation in the face of the escalating danger of devastating wars for all in light of the rise of extreme right parties in Europe and intersection of regional and international interests.
– We were fighting for peace and building a just civil state where the laws are respected, but the people responsible for doing so were not in charge and did not do so.
– Unfortunately, the hate speech discourse continues and is likely to lead to violence again. Therefore, this discourse must be confronted firmly and this is not usually the case.
– Press is one of the victims of war, but in the most difficult situation there were journalists who are committed to integrity and impartiality and rejected bad negative publicity. The majority of journalists has entered the spiral of escalation and political propaganda of one party or another and a few remain independent who have been warning and revealing the facts and believing that what is happening is not the right path. .. And in the end you have to choose between being in the ranks of governments, parties and regimes or in the ranks of telling the truth.
– When the war started, my father told me that all the armies were equal, but we will song for the victorious. In the end, life would never return and there would be no singing.
– What has been destroyed in a few years can not be restored in decades … Unfortunately, this is what happened. The cities and villages that were once full of life before the war and which included all the components that coexist among themselves, today see it as if it were waiting for death.
– The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has left 30,000 women victims of sexual violence, more than 700 mass graves where more than 30,000 victims have been buried, and out of the country’s 4 million people, there are 100,000 people killed. There is a heartbreaking tragic story in every house. Despite all of these, we are still striving for peace. As there is no alternative to peace and coexistence.
– We have no choice but confrontation. The evil guys during the war continue their march without stopping.
* The article is part of the material of the workshop organized by International Media Support (IMS) in coordination with the Association of Journalists of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo, for Iraqi and Syrian media and activists, including journalists in the NIRIJ network for investigative report focusing on the lessons of the Bosnian Civil War and the transitional period, The role of the media during the two periods of war and the reconstruction of peace.