News 06 Apr 12

Sarajevo Remembers Siege With Sea of Red

The Bosnian capital's main boulevard has been turned into a river of red chairs, 11,541 of them commemorating the lives lost in the 1992-6 siege by Bosnian Serb forces.

Elvira Jukic
BIRN
Sarajevo
  Sarajevo Red Line: Citizens left flowers at empty chairs | Photo by Elvira Jukic / Balkan Insight

Stunning site of almost a kilometer long line of red chairs, representing the lost auditorium, stands empty with hundreds of flowers laid on them, while the main performance event was held at the stage situated at the start of the red line.

Amongst the participants in the programme were Merima Kljuco, an accordion player and choir Art Vivo form Sarajevo. The actress Jasmina Diklic recited a poem “Report from besieged city” by the Polish writer Herbert Zbignijew.

Hundreds of pupils joined a children's choir in a rendition of  “All we are saying is give peace a chance.”

Thousands of Sarajevans and tourists filled the pavements around the stage and the red line.

The red chairs have been set in 825 lines in order to look like a long red river in the city's Marshall Tito Street. The number of 11,541 victims has been determined by the Research and Documentation Centre Sarajevo.

Friday's commemoration is the first of its kind. Never before has Sarajevo put on an official programme of this kind to honour the victims of the siege.

Foreign journalists and photographers who reported from Sarajevo during the siege have gathered in the Hotel Holiday Inn to share memories and discuss Bosnia's war-torn past.

Human rights activists have announced they will gather on the Bridge of Suada and Olga, named after two women who are considered the first victims in Sarajevo. They will discuss why, 20 years on, war crimes are still denied in the country.

Sarajevo streets | Photo by Beta

Several NGOs have also presented a multimedia project on the siege of Sarajevo and the fall of Yugoslavia. The collection, which gathers all the known facts about the war in one place, is in local languages and English and presented on Thursday in Marijin Dvor in the city centre.

A concert by the famous Bosnian cellist Vedran Smajlovic also took place on Thursday, also in the Holiday Inn. Smajlovic played his cello in the streets of the besieged city during the war and, along with some of his musical colleagues, risked his life to show his spirit of resistance.

Smajlovic, who now lives in Warrenpoint, North Ireland, came to his hometown to repeat some of those pieces, remembering the grim times.

Recalling when he played his cello in the streets, he said he was sorry he had to be invited to do so by foreign journalists and not the city authorities.

The siege of Sarajevo lasted 44 months and is considered the longest in modern history. Most people killed in the city were hit by snipers and bombs fired from the surrounding Serb-held mountains.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, ICTY, has sentenced two former Bosnian Serb generals for their role in the siege of Sarajevo.

Stanislav Galic and Dragomir Milosevic were found guilty of terrorizing civilians in Sarajevo and sentenced to life imprisonment and 29 years' imprisonment respectively.

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