Hopeful to move forward, Bosnian millennials try to unearth war skeletons

04 May 2015 by Nidzara Ahmetasevic, Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Bosnia’s wartime past is still an overly politicized topic. Twenty years on, the 1992-1995 conflict remains so controversial that most high-school history books mention it just briefly, if at all, to avoid tension. Only in the last few years has a space opened to hear different voices, including the many twenty- and thirty-somethings who have questions. The movement is unfolding on Facebook and other online forums and blogs. Documentaries and virtual and real-life get-togethers organized by grassroots movements unite likeminded youth who want to uncover the reality of the war.

Activists in Prijedor on White Armband Day 2014 hold a banner reading: "Because it concerns me" (Photo: Jer me se tice)
Image caption: 
Activists in Prijedor on White Armband Day 2014 hold a banner reading: "Because it concerns me" (Photo: Jer me se tice)

“We have to unearth the skeletons from the past in order to build the future. I do not want to carry the burden of somebody else’s crimes,” says Haris Jusufovic, a history teacher from Sarajevo who was 12 when the war started. Today, with a child of his own, he questions what happened to his Serbian neighbours during the 44-month Sarajevo siege. Several atrocities committed by Bosnian forces with a duty to protect all his city’s citizens are largely ignored in Sarajevo’s war narrative.

“Some people are afraid that if we talk about these crimes, the image of Sarajevo as victims of aggression will disappear,” Jusufovic tells IJT. He began learning more about the past violence through independent media, social networks and talking with friends. But last October, a protest of grassroots activists seeking insight into Sarajevo’s siege compelled him to write. On the Banja Luka-based web portal Buka, he published an open letter called ‘I want the truth about what happened to my Serb neighbours in Sarajevo’. It went viral in Bosnia and Serbia.

Sins of the father

Want to read more?

If you subscribe to a free membership, you can read this article and explore our full archive, dating back to 1997.

Subscribe now