Sunday, February 4, 2007

Sarajevo: The Bosnians remember..

I VISITED Sarajevo a few times in my previous life as a print journalist with the Business Times. This was part of the "on the job training" and exposure one has to go through as a journalist. I was sent to Belgrade to learn about, and provided coverage, of the month-long UN Conference for Trade and Development

Accompanied by friends and officers from the Primary Industries Ministry, we took a train ride to the famous city for lunch. And of course we took a picture of ourselves at the bridge which sparked the first world war. Sarajevo in the early '80s was part of Tito's Yugoslavia. It was a memorable visit indeed!

But a more memorable visit (for a different reason) was the one I made in the '90s when Yugoslavia vanished from the world's map to be replaced by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia. Ethnic cleansing and political indifference were the midwives for these new nations.

Sarajevo was a city beaten and battered, ravaged by acts of unimaginable cruelty. I stayed at the Holiday Inn, whose windows were shattered by bullets and hotel guests had to make do with minimum comforts. Far cry from its glory days. The nights were cold and the days were warm but damp.

But Malaysia's name had apparently been etched deep in the hearts of many Bosnians, especially those in Sarajevo. Made aware by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who made continous statements about the ethnic cleansing and other acts of cruelty in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Malaysians rallied behind Bosnians in many ways.

I remember being part of the Barisan Bertindak Bosnia (Bosnian Action Front) which was a loose grouping of NGOs and newspaper editors who devoted time, energy and space to highlight the plight of the Bosnians. Tun Mahathir as the Prime Minister then approved the sending of peace-keeping forces under UN sponsorship and ordinary Malaysians took part in a nationwide RM1 fund raising to help Bosnians reclaim their lives.

It was after all these that I visited Sarajevo again. The Bosnians, I later learnt, are grateful people. They remember us well. They remember the rakyat's funds collected via the Barisan Bertindak Boania which were given in two trenches.

The first was given in New York via Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was Foreign Minister attending the UN assembly; and the second via Tun Dr Mahathir in an old mosque in the heart of Sarajevo. The handing over was just after Zohor prayers, meaning that the mosque was sufficiently repaired to enable jemaah prayers.

When we walked in the streets of old Sarajevo, the citizens gave us gifts; souvenirs were bought at discounts; and there were invitations for coffee all the time. It was a visit that held many fond memories. Dr Mahathir, more than anyone, was the reason for the warmth and hospitality that Malaysians enjoyed.

Just before taking our flight home, I stopped at a school which was rebuilt by Malaysian funds. Tun Dr Mahathir and his wife, Tun Dr Siti Hasmah mohd Ali, had stopped at the school because the teachers, students and pupils, and parents wanted to say Thank You.

It was a Thank You that brought tears to one's eyes and made our hair stood on ends. The whole school had lined the yard leading to the hall and the children sang a haunting tune that made everyone speechless.

I recalled that moment and the visits after reading the Sunday Star (Feb 4) where it was reported that Bosnian NGOs had nominated Dr M for the Nobel Peace Prize. It's a report that made my day, and many others too I'm sure.

As I said earlier, the Bosnians do remember, and continue to show their gratitude...


*cosmic freak* said...

Sometimes, people remembers. Or maybe, some people remembers. Some people don't. I was young during that time, all I remembered were some beautiful Bosnian refugees made their way to Malaysia and the only thought that I had was how pretty these people are and I felt pity that their country were in "war". I did knew how they had to walk so far to run from their destroyed home, and it was a border - territorial dispute. It happened in the 90s, I was young and those were the only thing that I knew.

Today, I'm old enough to remember. I'm old enough to read and study what happened then. Only now.

It was a noble thing they did, nominating Tun Dr. M for the Nobel Peace Prize when there are people trying to put him down in his own country.

Btw sir, could I please get your contact for a project I'd like to propose to you. Its Nurol, a former intern student from Maxis. Please contact me at Thanks!

Anonymous said...

(A Land So Far Away)

What do I care
about Bosnia and

A land so far away.

what happened

A land so far away

What were they
nato and yankees
doing there

A land so far away

He died without a
verdict in
the lowlands
and another

A land so far away

what is this
another frequency
radio station?

A land so far away

What do i care about
Iraq and

A maqam so far away

Peace, Datuk

Anonymous said...

But the magnitude of what Tun is hoping to achieve is far greater now, and hopefully it will continue to expand as more and more people are realising the truth about war.

The people of the world will remember.

Rockybru said...

i was in sarajevo but i cant remember what year now. the war (the invasion, rather) was over but you saw scars everywhere. yes, cosmic freak, you remember correctly about those beautiful Bosnian refugees, but they were ravaged souls and battered spirits. the people I met in Sarajevo had nothing but good things to say about Malaysia. they knew or knew of Dr Mahathir as if he was one of their own. a Bosnian instead of a Malaysian warrior. how proud can one be?
datuk ahmad was there too. perhaps he remembers what year we were there. we took the train from london to munich and flew from there to sarajevo. saiful of nst was there, too.
years earlier, when sarajevo was under siege, when the bosnians were being cleansed and the americans watched from the sidelines, i met an Englishman who was trying to get into Sarajevo and wanted my help with media accreditation. I helped him with the media accreditation and asked KL if I could smuggle into Sarajevo with the guy. KL decided against it. The man left from Sarajevo and never returned.
when i finally set foot in sarajevo, i flirted with the idea of asking around for him. maybe he had settled down with a beautiful bosnian lass. or maybe they buried him there. but i was told there were too many unmarked graves and there were mass ones too.
sarajevo was a beautiful city but it is scarred.

*cosmic freak* said...

being younger (not young), sometimes I do feel that I miss a lot, experience-wise. Not being able to understand the suffering, the reasoning, the ideology, the dispute, everything, esp the ability of going there and do the media coverage and see the real crime scene (since war is a crime now). the education system in malaysia still doesn't allow students to be free in choosing what they desire to become, the parents are set with the mentality that their children should take professional courses and land on money-based jobs. am still struggling to convince my parents to accept the reality of me working with an NGO but they want their children to have 9-5jobs, in the air conditioned offices and get big pays.*sigh*

I think if we can start educating children on the quest of helping those in need not only within their means, but spiritually and also acknowledging them of the sufferings in the world, 25 years ahead, we would not only have those who can only remembers, but we'll have those who can bring changes.

syed syahrul zarizi b syed abdullah said...


I do remember, but vaguely. But I think The Bosnians have to live through the scarred city that keep reminding them about their horrible history.

Tun deserved the nomination.