Serbs did not take revenge. Muslim refugees got everything they needed from the Serb Army and the local civil authorities. Serb politicians made a mistake as they failed to inform the public that Muslims killed all the Serbs in Srebrenica during their rule.
By Vesna ŠURBAT
Renowned Serb historian and researcher Milivoje Ivanišević told Srna that he was among the first civilians who on Saint Peter’s Day, July 12, 1995, entered the liberated Srebrenica where he found no living Serb, either a civilian or a prisoner of war, and that to general astonishment, UN representatives rejected General Ratko Mladić’s request for the UN to assume the care of abandoned Muslim civilians.
“Unfortunately, there was no living Serb in Srebrenica. Everyone who stayed in the town was killed. I discovered the last Serb victim, elderly woman Iva Mirković, who was over 80 years of age, butchered probably the night before, at the entrance to an apartment building near the police station,” says Ivanišević, who is the founder of the Belgrade Institute for the Research of Sufferings of Serbs in the 20th Century.
He recalls that he entered Srebrenica among the first ones in a delicate situation thanks to his war-time friend S.P., one of the commanders of the Bratunac Brigade and the holder of the Order of Miloš Obilić. He says he entered the town with his son Boško and two soldiers in a car with Belgrade plates BG-859-237, on Saint Peter’s Day, 1995, and returned to Belgrade on July 23.
“Even prisons were empty. All Serb prisoners of war were killed. This was the most important, devastating impression. Such massacres were not committed even by predecessors of today’s murderers who wore Ustashe uniforms in WWII. Srebrenica was without a single living Serb,” says Ivanišević.
MUSLIM REFUGEES GET FOOD, WATER, AND MEDICAL AID FROM SERB ARMY
The second fact which Ivanišević mentions, which to a certain degree was understandable, pertains to Muslim/Bosniak prisoners of war without personal documents that could confirm their identity.
“Everyone used assumed names, and there were no either conditions or time to check their identity. A Dutch soldier showed me a Muslim who once introduced himself as Muharem, and the other time as Omer. Had he not taken part in massacres in Serbian villages and in Srebrenica he would not have had to lie and hide,” Ivanišević says.
The third unforgettable memory, he says, pertains to a huge crowd of Muslim refugees of whom no one even tried to take care.
The only thing that frightened and panicking women, elderly and children could have done after their own people abandoned them, was to ask Unprofor personnel, devoted but powerless Dutch soldiers, for protection, food, and water, even medical aid.
“They got everything they needed from the Serb Army and the local civil authorities. At general astonishment, UN representatives rejected General Ratko Mladić’s request for the UN to assume the care of Muslim civilians. This is why the burden of care for this huge crowd fell upon the Serb military and civilian authorities and devoted young men from the Dutch battalion,” says Ivanišević.
According to him, in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe that was on the horizon, Serbs used up everything they had in their stores and warehouses.
“Under almost unbearable heat, the demand for water was particularly high and a water tank stood day and night at the camp. Bakeries in Bratunac, Skelani, Milići, Zvornik, and Vlasenica ran out of flour. Bread and flour were brought from Serbia. Even stores in Republika Srpska towns ran out of bread. Everything that was procured was delivered first to Muslim refugees,” he says.
SERBS DID NOT TAKE REVENGE
At the time, after three years of heavy sufferings, the Serb side, Ivanišević says, did the most one could have expected from it.
“There was no revenge or a hostile attitude towards refugees, and families of Muslim criminals were treated as innocent civilians who were in trouble by accident. Had Muslims treated Serb civilians this way, thousands of them would have been alive today,” he says.
It is true, Ivanišević says, that incidents, disputes, mutual accusations, physical fighting, even killings and suicides, frequently occurred at the Muslim camp, and individuals were aggressive not only towards their own people but also towards Serb and Dutch soldiers who tried to help them.
“This is not unusual behavior for a huge crowd of several dozens of thousands of nervous and frightened elderly people and women with children under the heat of the July sun. Men there were without personal documents, and some of them wore pantaloons. They invented their names and deceived both Serbs and the Dutch when lists for food, transportation, footwear or medical services were made,” he says.
The fourth and the most important thing was the behavior of the Serb Army, as Serbs did not take revenge.
“Serb soldiers did not kill anyone out of revenge, let alone for being a Muslim, even though many of them had plenty of reasons for revenge,” he added.
Ivanišević says that fear and panic in Muslim villages were expected and justified as they knew well what their soldiers, relatives, fathers, and brothers did to their neighbors in Serb villages, and Muslim houses were full of things that were looted from Serb houses.
He says that the Serb Army took 43 Muslim villages around Srebrenica with tens of thousands of frightened and panicking residents, mostly children, women, sick and elderly people.
“The fact that there was no mass revenge or massacre of Muslim residents caused disbelief and astonishment not only in Sarajevo but, it seems, even more in Washington. The fact that there were no Muslim civilian victims was the greatest surprise of the war not only in BiH but in the area of the former Yugoslavia as well,” he says.
Ivanšević says that NATO pact planners were also shocked as they lost the main reason for their intervention against Republika Srpska.
“Luckily, no one in either Washington or Sarajevo expected this. Had they only presumed something like that, they would have seen to it that Alija Izetbegović’s hunches come true and 5,000 killed civilians would have been found in villages. How would we defend ourselves and say that we are not guilty in that case?” Ivanišević asked.
SERBS’ MISTAKE – THEY FAILED TO INFORM PUBLIC THAT MUSLIMS KILLED SERBS IN SREBRENICA
Ivanišević stresses, as a general impression, a huge omission and irreparable mistake made by Serb statesmen and politicians as they did not inform the public either then or later that Muslims killed all the Serbs during their rule of Srebrenica.
“In addition to residents, they killed Serb prisoners of war. If they are not held accountable for them, then Serbs are not accountable for their prisoners of war. Unfortunately, our presidents and their associates neglected Serb victims or did not know about them at the time, and it seems to me that they still do not know about them,” Ivanišević says.
He says that Serb officials indulgently apologized to Muslims, bringing wreaths and flowers, which made an impression in Serbia, but also in the world, that Serbs, and not Muslims, committed massacres of civilians.
“Such behavior contributed to a large degree to the creation of a cult of lies which is still dominant both in the domestic and international scene,” he says.
Ivanišević says that Serbs provided water, food, medical aid to several dozens of thousands of Muslim civilians, and in the end, transported them to their territory.
“They did not allow adults and children to suffer, to go on foot for dozens of kilometers under the hot July sun,” he says.
Unfortunately, he says, Muslims killed Serb civilians both in Srebrenica and surrounding villages, and they neither repented nor asked for forgiveness, they did not bring flowers to graves of people they killed as they did not consider the killing of Serbs a crime, just as was the case in previous wars.
To be continued…