Omarska 1992

I’ve been re-reading Samantha Power‘s A Problem From Hell, and I feel a need to revisit what happened in Bosnia in 1992 and after.

Power cites the work of Ed Vulliamy of the Guardian. We could start with his Shame of camp Omarska.

The internees are horribly thin, raw-boned; some are almost cadaverous, with skin like parchment folded around their arms; their faces are lantern-jawed, and their eyes are haunted by the empty stare of the prisoner who does not know what will happen to him next.

The prisoners, or internees, emerge from a huge rust-coloured shed, 30 at a time, into the sun and heat.

They are lined up by a prison guard, a civilian policeman, and then, as part of some pathetic camp drill, they run in single file across a courtyard and into the camp canteen, under the watchful eye of a beefy policeman with a machine gun in a glass observation post. There are no barked orders; they know the drill only too well.

In the well-kept kitchen they line up again and wait for their ration: a bowl of beans augmented with breadcrumbs and a piece of bread, which they wolf down in silence at the metal tables, before quickly and obediently forming another line by the door, and then running in line back across the yard, into the aluminium shed.

The meal takes five minutes. It appears to be their only one of the day. If they ate even twice as much they would be only slightly less gaunt and withered. Some take their bread with them to eat later. Then the next 30 appear, and jog across the yard.

You can Google “Omarska” and check Images to see what Vulliamy describes. Bosnian Institute News has this familiar photo:

Vulliamy was the first to document this.

Omarska is an old iron mine and ore processing plant. It is now the most notorious on a list published by the Bosnian government naming 57 of what it calls ‘concentration camps’.

Neither the International Red Cross nor the United Nations – nor any press – had visited it before we arrived on Wednesday, although the international agencies have expressed acute concern about the Bosnian-Muslim allegations.

They weren’t given free access, of course.

Most of the inmates are too visibly terrified to talk. We decline to interview people selected by the authorities, preferring to try finding our own inmates to talk to, but we are bundled away upstairs for a briefing.

Omarska, they tell us, is an ‘investigation centre’ for men suspected of being in the Muslim irregular army. They are rounded up or arrested, then ‘screened’ to determine whether they are fighters or civilians.

And while they were “screened” they were also starved.






  1. Ray Moscow says

    We worked with some Bosnian refugees who were in similar camps. (We speak the language somewhat since we used to live there.) The men had the same stories about being starved.

    It was very upsetting to know that people we knew were doing stuff like this, and worse.

  2. Decker says

    That photo was on the cover of Time Magazine and is REALLY evocative of the WWII death camps, isn’t it?

    However, you’ll notice that unlike the photos from WWII the others around the man don’t appear emaciated at all

    The subject of that photograph is emaciated because he is stricken with TB. You’re looking at the ravages of TB.

    The manipulative aspects of the still were admitted to by those who took the photo. They were under enormous pressure by their superiors to come up with something sensational, something that would prove just how evil Serbs are, something evoking the death camps of WWII. They hit the ball out of the park.

    One other important detail and it’s this. Those men aren’t standing ‘inside’ that barbed wire fence, they are standing OUTSIDE of it. That fence surrounded a supply depot and designed to keep people from pilfering. The journalists placed themselves INSIDE the fence and then took the photo. Were one able to pan out from the still, the true picture would be most surprising

    I cannot see Bosnians paying homage to WWII either. The Serbs fought the Nazis, quite effectively one might add, and saved numerous Jewish lives. The Bosnians and Croates, on the other hand, organized themselves into SS units and fought for Hitler.

    Perhaps the most egregious attack on civilians occurred when NATO forces blew up a train going over a bridge, a train chock full of 1000s of Serb women, children and the elderly who were heading away from the war zone. They were killed by NATO while attempting to flee to safety.

    Google Emir Kosturica ( Kostorica?). He’s an ex-Muslim-ex-Bosnian ( self-decolonized) and quite a good film-maker.

    If you go to Bosnia today, you’ll encounter numerous jihadists from Pakistan and Afganistan who fought for Bosnia and whose presence there was financed by The Gulf States. Afterwards they stayed and married fair-skinned Bosnian women.

    Allahu Akbar.

    Sarajevo today is an austere place dotted with austere, Saudi-funded mosques and austere Saudi-funded madrassahs. Hijabs are more or less de rigeur. Secularism has pretty much been excised, deviations from the True Path thwarted and The Caliphate restored.

    NATO as agent of Allah.

    The capital of Serbia, in contrast, is quite sensual, with numerous arts festivals, film festivals, outdoor cafés, effervescent nightlife and even gay bars.

  3. Richard Davies says

    Sarajevo today is an austere place dotted with austere, Saudi-funded mosques and austere Saudi-funded madrassahs. Hijabs are more or less de rigeur. Secularism has pretty much been excised, deviations from the True Path thwarted and The Caliphate restored.

    100% Bullshit. I think you are perhaps relying on the fact few readers will have been to Sarajevo. Well I have spend quite a bit of time there and it is nothing like you describe. What I saw was a fairly secular form of Islam alongside numerous christian institutions. There were some Hijabs but frankly nothing like the covering up I regularly see in London. What you fail to mention with regard to the Jihadists is that many of them distinctly disillusioned with how moderate the Bosniaks were where they got to the war.

    Sarajevo is anything but austere. It is just poor.

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