SUFFERING OF ROMA PEOPLE MUST NOT BE OVERLOOKED
The Roma communities in Europe suffer massive discrimination. They are denied their rights to housing, employment, healthcare and education, and are often victims of prejudice, hatred, and racist attacks. Here is a short overview of the suffering Roma people experience in and around Srebrenica in the 1992-95 Bosnian war...
Society for Threatened Peoples -- During the war, but also afterwards and even today, many Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina, depending on their place of living, declare themselves as members of Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) population....A Roma family are seen outside their temporary accommodation, backdropped by the largest office block in central Sarajevo, Bosnia, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010.
Before the war Roma mostly lived in the territory which is now called Republika Srpska. During the aggression, they too, just like the Bosniaks, were exposed to expulsions, deportations, killings, torturing. Our research has shown that Roma were detained in the concentration camps together with the others. The worst situation was for Roma from Prijedor and surrounding villages (Kozarac, Hambarine, Tukovi, Rizvanovici), then for Roma from Vlasenica, Rogatica, Srebrenica. In Srebrenica, the massacre against 70 Romani people was committed before the town fell.
Statement of B.O from Srebrenica:
"I am from Srebrenica. In 1995 in Srebrenica, massacre against 70 Romani people, among whom was my brother-in-law Mustafa Beharic, was committed. At the same time in the village of Skelani - 10 km away from Srebrenica, 50 Roma were killed. Among them were my two nephews Beharic Mujo and Beharic Haso. In Skelani village, Arkan troops [*Serbian paramilitary unit that participated in the massacres of Muslim in and around Srebrenica from 1992-1995] also killed my four relatives Mehici. Simultaneously, massacres were committed in Roma settlements Bjelovac (Bratunac) and Drinjaca (14 km from Zvornik). Roma from Potocari were especially exposed to suffering, and that is where my son and my brother were killed. [*note from the Oric judgement: 'During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potocari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica.']"
More than 300 Roma were detained in the camp in Miljkovci, near Doboj. Among detained Roma was the family of A.E from Modrica: father, mother and eight children. Below is the part of the A.E's statement:
"In this camp - which was one big warehouse - around 700 people out of which 300 Roma were detained. My eldest daughter H., who at that time was 13, was constantly raped in front of our eyes. After each rape my wife had to prepare and serve coffee to chetniks. I had to throw killed people in the river Bosnia. I threw them like clogs, I was not allowed to look or to ask any questions. One day I counted 120 killed people that I had to throw in the river and was waiting for my turn to be killed...." - August 1992. The statement of A.E is filed in the documentation of the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples under the number 86/94. Romani people were the first victims of Arkan troops in Bijeljina.
On 3 April 1992 Zehidin Hasimovic was killed. Three Arkan soldiers shot him in the vicinity of the police station, in Jozef Konkal street, nearby Roma settlement - Sljunkara. He had a wife and five children. This statement is in the documentation of the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples under the number 199/95.
Near Zvornik, from the village of Skocica, all Romani people were expelled. Children were separated from their mothers. Five children age 5 to 15 were taken away from Aganovic family. Family Ribic with their eight children had the same destiny. Speculations are that the children are in Sabac and Krusevac where they live under different names. Minors, Aganovic Izeta (14) and Aganovic Safeta (16), were taken to the above mentioned towns and were forced to marry. They were given Serb names. Two years after they have been taken away and with the assistance of the International Red Cross, their parents managed to get them back.
Roma in Bijeljina were victims of Arkan forces - so called "triplets". Melkic couple was slaughtered in their own house. Milkic family was one of the wealthiest in Bijeljina. In the house of Hamid Ribic, in May 1992, chetniks slaughtered six Roma families: Aganovic Mehmed, Nuhanovic Arif, Ribic Ismet, Ribic Biber, Ferhatovic Bisera, Bajric Dzemila. The statement is in the documentation of the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples under the number 206/95.
Roma who were living on the territory which is now called Federation defended their country together with the B&H Army. Within the B&H Army a brigade consisting of Romani men was formed and it was called "The Sooty Brigade". However, the ability to adapt to social environment in the situation of the war chaos, led Roma to join armies of the majority population in the places where they lived. This resulted in their internal conflicts and further displacements. The village of Jasenje, in Bijeljina Municipality, can serve as the best example of this. Around 500 Roma lived in this village before the war. Affiliation to the opposing warrant armies during the war resulted in complete division among Romani population of the village. In other words, the fact that the village was on the territory under the authority of Serb majority population, led a large number of Romani population in the village to join Serb military forces at the beginning of the war. When later on, the village became part of the Federation B&H, the families who supported "the Serb side" moved out and they still have the status of displaced persons. They are refusing to return to their original homes fearing possible harassment because of their participation in the Serb military forces during the war.
On the other hand, the war by its nature had a very strong influence on a large-scale displacements of Romani. They were expelled or had to flee in order to save their lives. As a result of combination of different factors, the situation with this ethnic minority today can be described as alarming. For instance, before the war, larger number of Roma lived in the territory which is now called Republika Srpska than in the territory of Federation. Now, there are only about 100 of them living in the whole Serb entity. From the part of Federation territory which, during the war, was controlled by HVO [Croatian Defence Council] and today by HDZ party [Croatian Democratic Party], also recorded were large-scale movements of Romani population (especially from the towns of Jajce, Mostar West, Livno and Tomislavgrad). Destinations of their war-caused movements are various. In principle we can talk about two directions: one that goes abroad, primarily to Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, and the second one that leads to different areas in Federation B&H. Still, it has to be emphasised that the majority arrived in [the Bosniak-controlled] Tuzla-Podrinje Canton. Large concentration of Romani in this Canton can be explained with their inability to return to their original homes in Bijeljina, Ugljevik, Zvornik, Brcko, but also with their need to be physically close to their homes and as soon as conditions are created to be able to return to their homes in safety.