In May 2001 Bosnian Serb nationalists were involved in rioting and violence aimed at Muslims in Trebinje, and Banja Luka in an effort to break up ceremonies marking the reconstruction of mosques destroyed during the war.
Riots in Trebinje and Banja Luka
The ceremonial launch of the sacred building projects was set to begin in May 2001. Including an Orthodox cathedral and a synagogue in Mostar, as well as mosques. Bosnian Serb demonstrators attacked guests and representatives of the Islamic Faith Community (IFC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina at the site of the future Osman-pasha mosque in Trebinje. They burned the IFC flag, sang songs praising Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb leader, and indicted war criminal. Muslim leader Reis-ul-ulema Efendi Mustafa Ceric believed that the riots were planned and meticulously implemented.
In Banja Luka, many people were injured and buses and cars damaged by fire. This was caused when the nationalist Bosnian Serb rioters interrupted a ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the town’s Ferhadija mosque. Demonstrators broke through police barriers and burned the IFC flag again. Cars and buses were set on fire and they prevented the fire brigade from attending the scene. The demonstrators threw stones at the Muslim guests and representatives who were forced to take refuge in the nearby Islamic high school. Eventually the Stabilisation Force units and Repblika Srpska police cleared the area. Guests included the UN Chief of Mission for Bosnia and Herzegovina Jacques Klein, ambassadors from the United States and United Kingdom, and the regional officers for international agencies in Banja Luka.
2001 was an important year with regard to the commitment of the international community. The disruption of these important cultural and religious ceremonies by large, violent and well-planned anti-Muslim riots, were an embarrassment for the international community through the Office of the High Representative. It became apparent that the implementation of annex 8 of the Dayton Peace Accords, the Agreement on Commission to Preserve National Monuments, had been neglected. This also brought to attention how the issue of National Monuments being used to obstruct community development and therefore affecting the rate at which refugees are able to return to their country.
Since the beginning, the Bosnian war was categorised by two features; mass expulsion of civilians taken from their homes, raped and murdered for being the wrong ethnicity and religion, and the deliberate destruction of cultural, religious and historic landmarks. Targets included the National Library in Sarajevo, Regional archives in Mostar, national museums, local museums, the National Gallery, Muslim and Jewish cemeteries and most significantly, the places of worship of the ethnic and religious groups.
As a result, nationalist extremists have removed more than a thousand of Bosnia’s mosques, hundreds of Catholic churches and many Orthodox churches, archives, museums and libraries. All in an effort to complete the cultural and religious ‘cleansing’.