Rebuilding Bosnia

Has Bosnia’s heritage recovered twenty years after the war?

Bilge Nesibe Kotan
Jan 6, 2017 · 5 min read
Ravaged by a war that destroyed most of its historic architecture over four years, Bosnia has struggled to recover. Photo: AFP
Bosnia’s architecture embodied 400 years of Ottoman rule, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Tito-era modernism. Its cities celebrated multiculturalism for decades until the war ravaged the country. Photo: UNHCR/R.LeMoyne, Getty Images, UNHCR/A.Hollmann
The iconic Mostar Bridge symbolised ethnic and cultural diversity — it connected Croats, Serbs and Muslim Bosnians for 427 years. It bridged the eastern and western parts of the city until it was destroyed by a heavy shelling by Croat forces in 1993, during the Bosnian war. Photo:Getty Images
“You have a population in Mostar which is 50 percent mixed,” he continued talking about the city where the iconic stone bridge was perceived as a symbol of multiculturalism for centuries. Photos: UNHCR/H.Kralj, UNHCR/Vincent Winter
“The reconstruction of Bosnia was a joint project approved by all sides of war and it was the first joint project after the war. It was organised by a special unit under the supervision of UNESCO and the World Bank,” Pasic says. Photo: Getty Images
Some countries donated money directly to the account of the World Bank for this joint project — for example Turkey gave 3.3 million dollars. One of the representatives from Bosnian side in this special unit was Bosnian and the other one was Croat,” Pasic says. Photos: UNHCR/C.Shirley
“For me, if you don’t restore [the city] means you are not capable of moving on,” says Pasic. Photos: Getty Images
The National Library of Sarajevo lost millions of books and documents including arguably the richest collection of Ottoman documents in the entire Balkans during the Serbian shelling in 1992. Some Bosnians formed a human chain to protect the National Library of Sarajevo from Serbian shelling. They did so at great risk of snipers, who were targeting civilians in the city . Bosnians proved that their culture cannot easily be erased. Photo: AP
“They attack minarets of mosques in order to destroy the identity. Minarets were targeted during the war, 24 hours of the day by rifles. Because minarets are the symbol of Islam and it is a problem,” said Prof Pasic. Photo: AFP
The tunnel that allowed Islam to bring aid to Sarajevo was the only link between the airport and the outside world. It brought aid, arms, food — and hope. Sarajevans were under an arms embargo, but the Serbian army had control of the former Yugoslavia’s army. This meant Bosnians were unable to defend themselves, paving the way for the genocide. Photo: Getty Images
Emira says residents never stopped going to work. Defiant, Sarajevans tried to live a normal life under the siege. Photos: UNHCR/Vincent Winter

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Bilge Nesibe Kotan

Written by

Digital Producer @TRTWorld

TRT World

TRT World

We’re building a global community focused around change. We’re looking beyond the headlines to drive meaningful conversations that empower. We want to connect people across the globe to issues that matter.