Sarajevo Day 1 – Fatima Begum

On arriving in Bosnia, I was full of apprehension. I had read all the articles and researched the history dating back to the 13thcentury. I felt prepared to an extent and readied myself for an emotionally and physically demanding trip. On the first day I woke up to the sun shinning and clear blue skies. The entire city is built on hills and it was difficult to comprehend that less than 20 years ago a war had devastated the country. Our first day included us meeting with a renowned Bosnian historian -Fedžad Forto. Fedžad took us through the city of Sarajevo, and as we walked he explained that Sarajevo is considered to be the ‘European Jerusalem.’  Seeing the beautiful Mosques, standing next to Orthodox Churches, neighbouring Catholic Churches, it dawned on me that this beauty was once the cause of division and war in Bosnia.

As we walked, and I took in the wonder of Sarajevo, Fedžad stopped in the middle of the market and explained that it was here the siege of Sarajevo began. He pointed to a spot on the ground, which was marred by scars of shelling and bullets and explained that it was on this very spot that innocent civilians had been gunned down as they stepped out to buy bread. Upon hearing this, my heart stopped! The beauty of this city that I was basking in suddenly became a dark place, as I imagined all those who had lost their lives in the very spot on which I was standing. Immediately a wave of sadness passed through me and it struck me that the events that occurred in 1992 are very much in the recent past. On the wall, stenciled on were at least a hundred names of all the innocent people who lost their lives that day, a constant reminder to all Bosnians, us, the world and now me, of the remnants of war and the consequences of the lack of inaction by the international community. In a way I felt, perhaps not responsible, but guilty that, as a fellow Muslim, a fellow human being I could not help save their lives. At this point a moment of realisation passed through me, and I vowed that while I could not have saved those who had lost their lives during the war, I could live in a way that would honour them. I decided there and then that I would listen intently and pass on the story of all Bosnians, of their struggle and ensure that they would not be forgotten. This was the justice I had to offer the people of Bosnia.

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