Jon Joneswith Rémy Ourdan & Gary Knight"Bosnia 1992-1995"

“Bosnia 1992-1995”
Edited by Jon Jones
Text Editor: Rémy Ourdan
Art Editor: Stephen Reid
Sub-editor: James Palmer
Production by Gary Knight and Ziyah Gafic


A group of photographers and writers who had covered the war in Bosnia decided to come back to Sarajevo on April 6th, 2012, to commemorate the war and re-engage with the country. A ‘Sarajevo 2012’ conference took place. The foreign reporters also decided to make a photo book about the war. Jon Jones (photo editor), Rémy Ourdan (text editor) and Gary Knight (production, in collaboration with Ziyah Gafic) took the project on. They pulled together the work of over 50 photographers and writers who all volunteered their material.

‘Bosnia 1992-1995’ hardback book contains 248 pages that include the work of many of the leading photographers and writers of the time. It charts the course of the Bosnian war from its beginning in April 1992 to the Dayton Peace Accord in December 1995.

The contributors to ‘Bosnia 1992-1995’ are Odd Andersen, Darko Bandic, Yannis Behrakis, Nina Berman, Alexandra Boulat, Eric Bouvet, John F. Burns, Christophe Calais, Patrick Chauvel, Rachel Cobb, Steve Connors, Enrico Dagnino, Jerome Delay, Janine Di Giovanni, Amel Emric, Wade Goddard, Antoine Gyori, Benoit Gysembergh, Tom Haley, Jean Hatzfeld, Ron Haviv, Filip Horvat, Roger Hutchings, Morten Hvaal, Srdjan Ilic, Olivier Jobard, Jon Jones, Thomas Kern, Gary Knight, Rikard Lama, Paul Lowe, Anthony Loyd, Santiago Lyon, Enric Marti, James Mason, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey, Anja Niedringhaus, Peter Northall, Remy Ourdan, Gilles Peress, Michael Persson, Ariane Quentier, Noël Quidu, Laurent Rebours, Andrew Reid, Patrick Robert, David Rohde, Laurent Sazy, Kurt Schork, Tom Stoddart, Laurent Van der Stockt.


Foreword"Sarajevo, a love story"Rémy Ourdan

Twenty years ago, Sarajevo came as a surprise. Back then, the winds of freedom that swept over Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall turned into tragedy in Yugoslavia.

As Yugoslavia heaved its last death throes, trapped between the evils of nationalism and criminal ambition there existed a little country, virtually unknown to the outside world, called Bosnia and Herzegovina. Its capital, Sarajevo, epitomised a “Yugoslav” spirit, and it had lived through a golden age in the 1980s. People there wanted to live just as they always had: together, without worrying about who was Muslim, or Serb, or Croat. Sarajevo embodied a culture of tolerance, and of nonchalance.

Elsewhere, people waved nationalist flags and sang nationalist songs. In Sarajevo, people demonstrated with portraits of Tito. And it was by shooting into one such rally that Radovan Karadzic’s snipers set off the war. Ratko Mladic’s gunmen quickly stepped in. Both acted on orders from Slobodan Milosevic from Belgrade.

To Sarajevans, this was a shock beyond words. It was such a surprise, in fact, that between the outbreak of war on April 6 and the surrounding of the city on May 2, 1992, in spite of the fact that the first battles had started and the city remained open, many chose not to flee. Few in Sarajevo took the war seriously. Then the siege began.

With the siege and bombing, the foreign correspondents came. In general, reporters are unstable, hurried individuals. They come, and they go. They are often good professionals, committed to telling the truth. But they rarely linger, always rushing off to the other side of the world. It’s just how things are.

In Sarajevo, things were different. The war was also a surprise to the correspondents, and for some, the need to stay in Sarajevo quickly became apparent.

Staggered by what they saw, many reporters either remained, to live in Sarajevo, or else returned frequently. They forged ties to the city and to Sarajevans. Often, even those who were wounded came back as soon as they were released from hospital, so they could keep telling the story. They, too, had become Sarajevan.

The debate on their real role will continue for decades. Historians will find it hard to agree. Most correspondents think they served no useful purpose, still surprised at having covered the longest siege in modern history while no-one intervened to save Sarajevo and Bosnia beyond. On the other hand, some Sarajevans say that even though foreign intervention came late, by the end of summer 1995, the city would never have been able to put up such resistance without the journalists’ daily coverage, without a minimum of international attention. No-one has the answer to these questions.

When the idea was floated last year among the war correspondent community to revisit Sarajevo for the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the war, it was met with enthusiasm. Since 1995, each had held Sarajevo deep within his or her heart. Some had returned many times during peacetime; others had never seen the city again. To all of them, the war represented something important, almost vital: an idea of freedom, of resistance, of a life shared, of dignity.

Then I wanted Sarajevans to decide for themselves whether this return of foreign correspondents was appropriate, 20 years later. It was for them whether a reunion of old friends would become a moment of Sarajevan memory, of Bosnian memory. For six months before the reunion on 6 April, 2012, I met with dozens of Sarajevans, telling them that they could make what they wished of the return of those who shared their darkest hours.

Sarajevans of two generations answered positively and emotionally: the war generation, with whom we lived our lives under siege, and the younger generation, who had known only childhood chaos, now aged between twenty and thirty.

“Never forget that we saw you live here with us, during the siege,” one friend told me. “On the one hand we like you because you stayed by our side. And on the other hand, because we had no electricity with which to watch television, and no longer received any newspapers, we have no idea what you said about us at the time. We want to rediscover it. We must share our memories.”

This is how we envisaged the return of the correspondents. This book is the testimony of the photojournalists; others are bringing books they have written, films they have made. All are returning to a city they loved, that they still love.

To love Sarajevo came as a surprise, because nobody ever imagined that this war could happen, or that it would be possible, or decent, to love a city under siege and bombing. To return is the continuation of a love story, which in spite of post-war torments for some, or the chaos and carnage elsewhere in the world for others, will never die.

"Soldiers' Words"Rémy Ourdan(January 25, 1995, Le Monde)

Sanjin is shaking. “At the beginning, I didn’t think men could be that insane.” On the front line, in the trenches, with his companions, he learnt to master his fear. Three years of war now, almost…
In a coffee shop in Ciglane, his neighbourhood in Sarajevo, Sanjin tells his war story. He is 21. He enlisted voluntarily for the first battle; he built barricades with other youths in his neighbourhood. “We had a few old rifles; one of us had a gun… Later, we found stocks of weapons in the apartments deserted by the Serbs who had left Sarajevo and gone up into the hills.” Sanjin joined the brigade of the Bosnian Dragons and was with them until he was injured, at the end of 1992.

“It was in December, we had been ordered to attack the Serbs in Otes, west of the city. We were convinced this would be the final assault that would open up Sarajevo. We climbed into trucks and drove to Otes. The suburb was quiet, people were playing cards outside their front doors. I felt as if I was in the countryside… The following day, Otes turned into hell. The serbs must have been warned, or they saw us getting ready. We were advancing towards the tanks, convinced we were all going to die.” Sanjin’s breath shortens, he lights another cigarette and carries on. “I thought the earth was going to crack. The ground was shaking and the tanks were advancing. Houses were burning. Every minute, one of my companions would fall, another one would lose a leg, an arm; the explosions were covering the screams of the wounded. Friends begged me to finish them off.

“Then, a mortar fell a metre away from me and blew me up,” the young soldier continues. “When I tried to stand, I saw a bone sticking out of my hip. My friend couldn’t even look at me.” sanjin looks close to tears, but his eyes remain dry. “I woke up two days later in hospital. The nurse’s name was Sanja; she was beautiful. I left for the front line as soon as I could walk and i will fight until the end. Unfortunately, this war will carry on because nobody wants to help us. If we had the weapons, we would be able to crush the Serbs within six months. The issue is that nobody wants to understand why we are fighting. We were attacked by a nationalist mob and we are defending a multi-ethnic and democratic Bosnia. The serbs want to wipe us out. I am not a Muslim, we all have different origins in my family. What I know is that only my mother is still alive. My father was a Serb, my mother is Muslim. I am Bosnian or I am Eskimo: call me what you want.”

Bosnia and Herzegovina abounds with young fighters who will never surrender. Sanjin and his friends fired their first bullets as a game, simply because it’s more fun to go to war than to go to school. Three years on, the Bosnian army taught its child soldiers discipline. Sanjin shares his life with a weapon, a Russian gun from the 1940s; he doesn’t show it off in front of the girls.

Sanjin left adolescence behind. But he is a broken man. “I don’t want to go anywhere else, in fact, no country would accept me. and because nobody will give us the guns, the war will last for 20 years. I am only sure of one thing — we will be victorious. Sarajevo will not remain a prison camp forever.”

Edo is 20 years old. He is still beardless. He stretches out his long pianist’s fingers on the table. “I enlisted in the spring of 1992 to defend justice,” he says earnestly. “I was still a child. I felt that taking shots at people was unjust. The Bosnian army was a popular army back then, made up of volunteers. Today, we are enlisting the young ones and are slowly building up a professional army. But we will never be professionals, because we fight with our hearts. I also hope for foreign military intervention. I don’t believe in it, since the ‘Blue Helmets’ have been taken hostage by the Serbs several times. How can the international community, unable to gain respect for its own men, be in a position to come and defend us?”

Edo recounts a story from the front line, the only story he doesn’t want to erase. A story he dreams of so as not to be reminded of the friends who fell by his side. “One day, a Serb child got lost on the front line; he was searching for his father. He made it to our trenches. We laughed and pointed him to the other side. The following day, he came back with a basket loaded with food. His dad sent it.”

The Bosnian soldiers are never short of stories about how the war has pitted neighbour against neighbour. on the hills of Trebevic, the opposing sides sometimes talk or send coffee parcels to each other. Elsewhere, two brothers, now enemies, organized a dog fight for entertainment. Last year in Zuc, a football match was held between the “government supporters” and “the Serbian separatists”. According to the Bosnian soldier who told the story, the men from Sarajevo beat the Serbs 2-1.

“My friend Ramiz was a sniper operating across from the Serbian neighbourhood of Grbavica,” says Enver. “He was targeting gunmen who were shooting at our civilians. Every day, he was looking at a young woman with long hair, who always wore a red coat, bringing a serb commander coffee: her fiancé, or her brother perhaps… He wanted to go to Grbavica at the end of the war and marry her. But he is still waiting for the war to end and he is still madly in love with her.” Enver is a paramedic. “I never carried a rifle,” he says, a hand grenade hanging around his neck. “I never felt a sense of victory after the battle. My job is horror and defeat, injuries and mutilation.” in 1989, Enver wrote a novel, The Blind Alley. “It’s the story of two lovers during the war in Sarajevo. I described the anxiety and the shelling, I could feel the war was going to engulf my country, but never could I imagine such atrocities.” Enver has amputated more than 300 limbs. He dreams of becoming a writer. He is exhausted.

Ahmed wants to be a sports writer. Between two front-line tours of duty, he works for Sarajevo TV. “I have difficulties focusing my mind,” he worries. “Intellectually, I am not progressing any more. What a waste, and all because those serb criminals decided this land was serb land. My dream now is starting a family,” he goes on. “A middle-class dream. A house, a garden full of flowers. The perfect spot for it would be Sarajevo, of course. Most likely in the old ottoman town… War destroyed our sentimental lives, but I still hope I will be able to rebuild it.”

“I must be dreaming this war, because I still can’t believe it,” Goran, a Bosnian Serb soldier, says as if in reply. He is comfortably settled in the Serbian stronghold of Pale with his wife and child. “When I come home, I avoid talking about the fighting,” he says. “On the front line, I try not to look at the corpses. I am a foot soldier. I think I never killed anyone, because I never had anyone in my line of fire.” Goran says he is fighting against Islam. “The West is mistaken when blaming the Serbs for the troubles and rejecting the ethnic partition of Bosnia. The Muslims want to turn us into second-rate citizens. The Serbs will never accept it. Soon, the Europeans will be fighting on our side.”

The moment the atrocities committed by the Serb militia are mentioned, Goran seeks refuge in his soldier’s code of conduct — he only follows orders. “My brigade is in charge of defending the Trebevic road and I only think about that.” That Trebevic is the main hideout for the artillery contingent shelling Sarajevo doesn’t worry him.

“I am not looking at it from the perspective of an unequal balance of forces between the Serbs and the Muslims… the Muslims must be even more fed up with it than us,” Dragan says with a smirk. “They are surrounded and they will need to accept peace. I was fed up with it already on day one. I believe in reconciliation, but only when the wounds have healed.”

“The communists made a mistake, handing over power to the nationalist parties,” Dragan observes. “I think we can reconstruct a new Yugoslavia and have a relationship with our Muslim neighbours. I won’t be able to handle the fighting for much longer. If the war goes on, I will leave, regardless of how much I love it here. The Serb fighters come mostly from the countryside and don’t really understand the reason for fighting any more. They want to go back to farming rather than the front line.”

“Sharing our lives from now on will only be possible if we go back to being Yugoslavia,” says Goran. “In Izetbegovic’s Bosnia [the Bosnian President who is a Muslim], never!”

Neven has been fighting from day one, up there in the hills of Sarajevo. He doesn’t want to elaborate on his war experiences, either. He is chopping wood outside his house. “For three years now, I have lived fearing I will lose my life. I want to forget this war. Peace doesn’t depend on us,” he says, “or the Muslims. The West will shape our destiny. I fought for my people, for ‘Serb sentiments’. Prior to that, i never felt ‘Serb’. I didn’t want this war, but everything happened so fast… I want to stop fighting, but it isn’t my choice, and there is nowhere else to go. I need to keep on going and face the enemy, not ask myself too many questions and wonder if it’s me or them. I am protecting my home, there is no room for sentiment… In fact, we are all pawns in someone else’s game — the US, Russia, the United Nations. I am a soldier from Pale and I exist so I can be killed.”

Damir is 26 years old. He is a “professional killer”. Born in Pale, he has been fighting on the front lines stretching out from Sarajevo to Gorazde for three years. “I hope the conflict will last for a long time — what would I be doing if there were peace? I only know war.” Damir is toothless today. He is part of a special intervention unit. He is laughing between sips of plum brandy.

“If the Muslims were to disappear from the face of the Earth, I would want the Serbs to declare war on other countries. I lost all my friends in combat. My life is screwed up. So, better to carry on with it… The Serb people aren’t stupid, they know the West is allowing them to do the dirty work: to eliminate the Muslims. The Serbs are always alone and that suits me fine.”

Damir, an elite fighter, worships war. “On both sides of the front line, the soldiers don’t like civilians or politicians. I respect my enemy more than those who hide from the war. I am willing to talk to the ones I am fighting against because we share the same fight. There is no hatred on the front line, only mad men.

“Yes, I am mad,” Damir asserts. “Last year a journalist asked me to accompany him to Paris. Poor Frenchman… I would only become a gangster or a mercenary. My only duty is to carry on with the terror, to kill, to spread death. That’s why I want the war to last. If peace was to come, my own people would kill me, because no state needs a mad man. Normal people cannot understand, they don’t know what it means to kill someone. Us, real fighters, we kill… Later on, we think about it, we dream about it… Just a few days ago, a soldier got on the bus driving him up to the front line and, without uttering a word, he got up and pulled the pin out of his hand grenade. He lived through it and he won’t go to jail. The man is simply exhausted. The war has been going on for too long, sometimes we lose control.”

Damir gulps down another glass of slivovic.

“We died three years ago. We are the sacrificed generation. Do you know how to play Russian roulette? Me and my friends, we love that game. The difference from the usual rule is that we put three bullets inside the gun barrel instead of one. Next time I play it, I might even play it with six bullets… There is no fear left.”