|Srebrenica, Beerdigung identifizierter Ermordeter am 11, Juli 2007|
[...] The failure of Vance–Owen spelt more disaster for the Bosnian government. On 16 June, Miloseviç and Tudjman met to discuss the partition of Bosnia-Hercegovina, and Miloseviç was pushed by Seselj into purging 43 generals of the Army of Yugoslavia, including the Chief of Staff, in order to secure his hold on power by pre-empting the high ground of nationalist fervour. Renewed offensives brought Mount Igman, overlooking Sarajevo, under Serb control (4 August), and on 24 August the Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna was proclaimed. On 27 September, Fikret Abdiç (of ‘Agrokomerc’ fame) announced the formation of the Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia, his old stamping ground around Bihaç, rejecting the authority of the Sarajevo government. Fighting erupted between Muslim and Croat forces for control of the Neretva valley, ending in the capture of Mostar by Croatian forces in November. Mostar, the capital of Hercegovina and religious centre of the Muslims for centuries, was divided into two ethnic ghettos separated by the gap-toothed remains of the legendary bridge, destroyed by Croatian fire, which had stood for 400 years and gave Mostar its name.
The reputation of the United Nations was in tatters, and there was talk of ending the UNPROFOR operation. Hostage-taking, the routine penetration by Serb warplanes of the no-fly zone over Bosnia, refusal to allow passage to humanitarian convoys, all demonstrated the simple truth, that the UN would continue to be brought into contempt as long as it was hobbled by the role of peacekeeper. The fall of Srebrenica to the Serbs in April roused the UN commander General Philippe Morillon to such a pitch of angry compassion for the Muslim population that Security Council Resolution 819 declared Srebrenica a ‘safe area’, followed by five others: Sarajevo, Gorazde, Zepa, Tuzla and Bihaç. But since the UN had no means to defend or supply them, they were anything but safe, and the shepherding of Muslims into these enclaves did the work of ethnic cleansing for the Serbs, putting them all tidily into a demilitarized limbo for later mopping-up. Bosniak forces used the ‘safe areas’ in eastern Bosnia (Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa) to launch offensives, but they too were unable to defend them. That was left to the UN, which had only a fifth of the 35 000 troops promised for the task.
UNPROFOR’s Commander-in-Chief, General Jean Cot, criticized both the UN and NATO for passivity, and at the end of January 1994 another French general, François Briquemont, resigned as UN commander in Bosnia, saying the military’s task there was impossible. Sarajevo caught the imagination of western publics. Through the television lens they shared the experience of peace monitors, who literally ‘observed’ helplessly as the Serbs shelled the remaining beleaguered inhabitants of a once cosmopolitan city, united at the beginning of the war in multi-ethnic demonstrations of solidarity against nationalist hatred. After an explosion in a market killed 69 people and maimed 200 more as they went about their morning business on 5 February 1994, NATO acted to enforce an exclusion zone for heavy weapons around the city, and on 28 February shot down four Serbian fighters in the no-fly zone. Attitudes in the White House were hardening as the Clinton administration shook down after a year in office, and on 18 March, Tudjman and Izetbegoviç signed an agreement in Washington to form a Muslim–Croat Federation for the governance of those areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina which had a Muslim or Croat majority at the beginning of the war. On 26 April, a Contact Group was formed (the US, France, Britain, Russia and Germany) which superseded Vance–Owen, and on 6 July its plan for peace was accepted by the Bosnian assembly.
This plan awarded 51 per cent of Bosnia-Hercegovina to the Muslim–Croat Federation, leaving 49 per cent to the Serbs. Miloseviç also accepted the plan, in return for limited relief from the sanctions which were crippling Yugoslavia. Again the Bosnian Serbs refused the deal, which would force them to give up a third of the territory they controlled, but their military advantage was weakening. The Bosnian Army had almost doubled its fighting strength as a result of the influx of refugees, and had two years’ experience of fighting for Muslim survival. The western arms embargo was lifted only after the Dayton Agreements ended the war, despite the vote in the US Senate to end it, on 11 May 1994, but light weaponry became much easier to obtain, some of it reputedly supplied by Saudi Arabia and Turkey, some smuggled in through Croatia.8 On 20 August, Fikret Abdiç’s fiefdom was overrun by the Bosnian Army, and fierce fighting broke out to control the ‘safe area’ of Bihaç. Although Mladiç’s forces continued to cock a snook at the West, again taking UN hostages and bombarding Sarajevo, they could not retake Bihaç.
The battles raged on for almost another year, and in the end it was the Croatian Army that tipped the scales. Having twisted Tudjman’s arm to sign up to the Muslim–Croat Federation, the United States turned a blind eye to the expansion and arming of the Croatian armed forces: the Croatian Army numbered 65 000 by the time of Dayton, and could call on reservists, Home Defence Forces and paramilitary police – some 350 000 men in all.9 Croatia became the proxy which allowed the West to circumvent the problems of military action by NATO forces, although its policy became noticeably more resolute after the Serbs took 370 UN personnel hostage as a reprisal for NATO airstrikes on their positions around Sarajevo, at the end of May. In the spring and summer of 1995, offensives by Bosnian and Croatian forces began rolling the Serbs back; they retaliated by taking Srebrenica and Zepa during the first two weeks of July, and in Srebrenica committed the worst single atrocity of the war.
Bosnian Serb troops led by General Mladiç brushed aside the tiny contingent of UN Dutch soldiers, taking 32 of them hostage, and then massacred 6000–7000 Muslim men. For this act Mladiç was indicted at the International War Crimes Tribunal as a war criminal.10
The effect of the UNPROFOR mandate was to freeze the situation in Croatia, leaving the Serbs in possession of a third of Croatian territory, from which they were able to launch air support for their Bosnian Serb brothers. In March 1995, Tudjman ended the mandate, and a new agreement (22 July) between Izetbegoviç and Tudjman on military cooperation brought instant results. At the end of July Croatian forces took the key Bosnian towns of Grahovo and Glamoc, cutting off Knin, which fell on 5 August. The Serbs now maintained a foothold only in eastern Slavonia. The mortaring of Sarajevo’s main market on 28 August (37 dead, 85 injured) finally produced a proportional response from NATO: two weeks of bombing inflicted major damage on the Serb forces besieging the city, compelling Mladiç to withdraw his heavy weapons.
By the end of September, Muslim–Croat forces controlled central and western Bosnia, and the major Serb stronghold of Banja Luka came under threat. On 12 October, a cease-fire came into force throughout Bosnia-Hercegovina, and the signing of the Dayton Agreements at Versailles (14 December 1995) at last allowed a sullen and exhausted peace to settle on the republic.
Now it was the turn of Kosovo to come under the hammer. The signal for revolt was given by the Kosovars in the proclamation of a Republic of Kosovo, on 2 July 1990. [...]
Und nun noch einige Faktoren, beziehungsweise Stufen der Islamisierung des Balkans, oder besser gesagt Teilen davon, denn die Mehrzahl blieb ja insgesamt doch christlich.
Aus: Anton Minkov: Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahası Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670-1730. Brill, Leiden 2004.
In conclusion, I argue that there can be no single explanation for the Islamization of the Balkan population. It was more than likely a combination of several factors that played a role in the conversion of a particular region. The more factors involved, in fact, the faster the pace of conversion. Nevertheless, some of the factors and forms of conversion were more pronounced in particular periods than in others. The connection between the stages and factors of conversion could be summarized as follows:
1. In the course of the ﬁfteenth century, conversion was minimal. It mainly aﬀected the former Balkan military elite, who saw in conversion a way of preserving its privileged position in society. Most of the Balkan population saw its standard of living rise in this period, and thus, conversion, if chosen, represented acceptance of Ottoman rule rather than recognition of the superiority of Islamic religion or else coercion. The latter factor was only pronounced in the case of boys collected through the devsirme.
2. In the sixteenth century, conversion to Islam became a more widespread phenomenon. Members of the urban population, such as craftsmen, converted in large numbers because of market pressure and greater exposure to the Muslim settlers’ way of life. Conversion among the rural population picked up only in the later part of the century as a result of a combination of factors, such as worsening of economic conditions, religious syncretism and past heretical inﬂuences. The devsirme institution was furthermore no longer associated with forced conversion once the population realized the advantages that the institution oﬀered to the boys collected, as well as to their families.
3. It is the seventeenth century, when the rural population began to embrace Islam extensively, that may be deemed as the Balkan “age of conversions.” Islamization, nevertheless, was a gradual process rather than a short-term phenomenon. Factors operating during this period included continuing economic diﬃculties as well as the inability on the part of the Orthodox Church to oﬀer spiritual guidance in regions with a past aﬃliation to Bogomilism. The immense prestige of the devsirme cadres, on the one hand, and the abrogation of the levies in the later part of the century, on the other, encouraged the common people to look at voluntary conversion as a prerequisite to membership in the military or paramilitary corps.
(Bildquelle: Wikimedia Commons, Almir Dzanovic)