News 13 Aug 12

Bosniak WW2 Hero’s Plaque Stirs Controversy in Serbia

The Bosniak National Council called Serbian authorities to remove monuments dedicated to Chetniks across Serbia before they decide to remove a plaque dedicated to a WWII Bosniak community leader.  

By Marija Ristic
Belgrade

The Council of the Bosniak Minority in Serbia called on the Serbian government to pass a decision about the removal of the Chetnik memorial complex in Ravna Gora, and monuments dedicated to the WWII Chetnik Leader Draza Mihajlovic, before proceeding with the removal of a plate dedicated to Acif Hadziahmetovic, the former leader of the Bosniak Muslim community in Serbia during the Second World War.

Who was Acif Hadziahmetovic?

Acif Hadziahmetovic (1887 – 1945) was appointed by Nazi Germany in April 1941 as the head of the town of Novi Pazar which later during the war acted as part of the “greater Albania”.

In Bosniak literature, he was perceived as “the saviour of the Muslims from the Chetniks,” while the official Serbian history treats him as a traitor and ally of Nazi Germany, and is responsible for killing a number of Serbs and other non-Muslims. 

When the partisans freed the town of Novi Pazar from Nazi Germany and their allies in January 1945, Hadziahmetovic was killed, together with a number of others who were viewed as collaborating with the occupiers.

 

On August 4, under an initiative by the Bosniak National Council and the Party of the Democratic Action, SDA, a plaque dedicated to Hadziahmetovi was placed on the house where he resided during WWII in the town of Novi Pazar.

The ceremony, which was attended by the current Minister without Portfolio Sulejman Ugljanin and a leader of the SDA, caused controversy.  Officials in Belgrade condemned the event and stated it was “an act of celebrating fascism,” conversely, Bosniak leaders view Hadziahmetovic as “the legitimate leader of the Bosniaks.”

Following the plague ceremony, the Serbian government decided to initiate the removal of the memorial plate in the town of Novi Pazar, explaining that controversial historic events should not jeopardize good inter-ethnic relations.

The Council of the Bosniak Minority, however, challenged the government’s decision and questioned its logic.  

"Any hasty moves [by the Serbian government] could have an unimaginable effect on Sandzak's stability,” read a public statement issued by Bosniak National Council.

Esad Dzudzevic from the Council says that Serbia is still trying to dispute the Bosniak’s right to have its national identity, history and culture.

“The history of Bosniaks should be written by Bosniaks to represent their views, and not by Aleksandar Vucic, [the Vice President of the Serbian government] Ivica Dacic, [the Serbian Prime Minister] or by the Serbian Academy of Science,” Dzudevic explains.

Photo by Beta

Another Serbian Bosniaks leader, Rasim Ljajic, and a current Minister of Trade, says that the authorities in Novi Pazar did not follow the standard procedure for monument placement.  

“The only body that can decide to place plaques is the City Assembly, which was not asked. Furthermore, this plaque fails to acknowledge basic historic facts. That man advocated for a ‘greater Albania,’ he considered the town of Novi Pazar as its capital and he expelled Serbs and denied Bosniaks,” Ljajic said to the Belgrade based media B92.

“He removed emblems from the Bosniaks in Novi Pazar, he brought the Albanian teachers to teach in the schools and enabled the clear ‘Albanianisation’ of that area. He cannot be the basis of the Bosniaks’ new identity if he denied the existence of that ethnicity,” he added.

Belgrade historian Predrag Popovic agrees that Hadziahmetovic has a stronger association with the Albanians than with the Bosniaks.

“He was known for his pro-Albanian stance, and in that period, was an ally of Germany.  Additionally, he is currently linked with Mihailovic, which I believe is incorrect. They were both leaders in the same historic period, and they both had nationalistic views, but they do not have anything else in common,” Popovic explains.

The Serbian Ministry of Justice, who is in charge of the removal of the plaque, was not available for comment on Monday.

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