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Thoughts on the Quagmire that Hinders Peace in BiH

As my forthcoming book is getting closer to publication, I am struck by my own personal evolution on how to bring about a true peace among the diverse ethnicities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A couple of years ago, I began to research the plentiful resources to learn about the war. I read newspaper articles, some of the proceedings of the ICTY trials of war criminals, viewed documentaries, online interviews, and feature-length films, spoke with researchers, journalists, academicians, and representatives from non-profit organizations here and in BiH. I met survivors and had long discussions via zoom. For the book itself, I allied with Satko Mujagic, a survivor of two concentration camps in Prijedor, who guided me in telling of the stories of those in the camps throughout the first half of the book to ensure that their experiences were depicted as authentically as possible. He wrote a heart-felt foreword for my novel, as well.

When I started in the pre-writing research, I found myself getting angry at the horrors committed by the nationalist Bosnian Serbs, and lumping all Bosnian Serbs and Serbia's citizenry into one category-perpetrators of the worst atrocities on European soil since the Holocaust. The anger was justified, of course.

However, it was Satko who first pointed out in my writing that I was demonizing all Bosnian Serbs, and that there were many examples of those who tried to help their non-Serb friends and neighbors, and who were quite distressed over what was transpiring. Of course, there were also the bystanders who simply turned a blind eye.

Recently, the outgoing High Representative to BiH, a position from the Office of the High Representative (OHR), an international institution responsible for overseeing implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995), imposed a law that criminalizes denial, hate speech, and glorification of war criminals.

I believe this to be a necessary step to curtailing the revisionism that is so rampant that it’s taught in the education systems in Republika Srpska and Serbia. Although important, it's taken twenty-six years for the OHR to take this step.

Dr. David Pettigrew was recently interviewed by a number of news outlets upon a visit to BiH. He recognized the importance of the new law, but also spoke to ideas that will further a true reconciliation and peace among all ethnicities and religions in "civic commissions" as another means of chipping away at the continued divisions among all ethnicities in the region. To read one of his interviews, download it below.

I have found others who posit how to build peace in BiH. It seems that as hate becomes more entrenched, violence, once again, becomes more of a threat.

Genevieve Parent, a researcher on denial, peace building, and trust in BiH over the past number of years, has done some excellent work on suggesting ways going forward by compiling data through extensive interviews of people "on the ground," of local folks who are the most affected by the turbulence that hovers nearby. More about her work in future blog posts, but you can also find it online.

Kemal Pervanic, a survivor of the Omarska and Manjaca concentration camps (along with Satko), and who also grew up in Prijedor, began an organization in Prijedor called Most Mira (translation: Bridge of Peace) in 2008. Its mission is to break the barriers of communities to create a better understanding of each other, and build bridges, not perpetuate walls. (

It seems to me that there is a way forward out of the morass that began to build before, and

lead up to the genocidal campaign, and that has today resulted in barriers to cooperation toward a brighter future for BiH. The people and projects I note above are showing us how. The question is: does the government, which is entrenched in Ethno-Nationalism, have the political will to allow truth to be the guide to a brighter future for generations to come, or will they lead the citizens of BiH down the path of self-destruction?

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