He once said, “Fire on Velesici and Pofalici. There aren’t many Serbs there. Don’t let them sleep. Make them lose their minds.” Yet, far from being a “defender of the Bosnian Serbs,” as his supporters are calling him today, when push came to shove he showed no qualms about having the military leaders under his command shoot, snipe and shell at “his people” if the trade off was the destruction of Sarajevo; a city’s whose very existence stood in defiance of the chauvinism and narrow minded bigotry of Mladic’s nationalism.
By all accounts he was, and is, deeply affected by the premature death of his daughter Ana in 1994. Yet, one year later, he had no qualms about sending thousands of other peoples’ sons to their deaths at Srebrenica. Before he arrived in the Hague, he paid a visit to his daughter’s grave; yet this July, sixteen years after the genocide in Srebrenica, there will still be families who will not have a grave to visit, their relatives remains lying in mass graves across eastern Bosnia.
He was a General who during the war, more often than not, was treated as a respected and legitimate figure by members of the international community and peacekeeping mission. Yet, today he is indicted on just about every war crime in the books, including taking UN troops hostage.
Mladic will get his day in court, he will have an opportunity to cross examine the witnesses and put his own witnesses on the stand. So I think it would be fitting to end this post with a remembrance of someone who cannot speak for himself, Nezir Omerovic. I originally posted this excerpt from Emir Suljagic’s “Postcards from the Grave” for the 15th anniversary of Srebrenica, but I think it is appropriate today.
His name is Nezir Omerovic. Nobody knows exactly how he ended up in the film, [Neretva-a Yugolsav era movie-Shaina] but among his neighbours from Zaluzje near Bratunac who have survived, several different stories circulation. According to the least realistic one, he had been spotted and chosen by Yul Brynner as he stood in a formation of JNA soldiers from among whom extras were being selected. It is true that Nezir was doing his military service in Jajce at that time, but he only came close to the Hollywood star later one, during the filming. One of his best friends even claims that the little leather bag which the engineer officer Vlado-the role played by Yul Brynner-carried throughout the whole film actually belonged to Nezir. A second, more credible, version is told by his mother, but that story contains large gaps. She remembers that Nezir came back home from the army in the summer of 1963, during the summer harvest. But three months later he was summoned for the filming. Old Mujaga, his grandfather, was angry that his only male descendant was going to do some silly acting he refused to say goodbye to him. He simply turned his head as his grandson headed towards the door. But soon after that he told Nezir’s wife to write to tell him to come back. Nezir was his rich grandfather’s only heir, and the latter owned one of the biggest farms along the Drina. He got married very young, when he was still a child of fifteen, at the wish of his grandfather who thereby thought to keep him bount to the land. When he returned home from te set, he continued his life where he had left it off, nostalgic about his brief moment of fame and tormented that he never gone a step further. allegedly he had indeed been offered a part in some film. When he got drunk, he would ask his neighbours and friends, who as in every small place half-mockingly called him ‘actor’.’ He was reminded of that time by photographs (which later got burnt) with the smiling faces of the then stars of the Yugolsav cinema: Ljubisa Samardzic, Velimir Bata Zivojinovic, Pavle Vujisic, Milena Dravic.
On the night of 12 July 1995, a group of people had just started its journey from Srebrenica to Tuzla. During a break, Nezir left two of his sons and went down a hill to a nearby stream to fetch some water. He never came back. … The rest of his family (his mother, sister and wife) came every day to the Red Cross office in Tuzla to look through the names of the survivors, for Nezir and his sons Muharem and Nazir. That is where they heard from other women-who were equally desperately looking for any sign and clinging to the tiniest shred of hope-that Nezir had last been seen alive in Kravica, among thousands of captives sitting in the scorching heat with their hands above their heads.
… We shall never find out what Nezir dreamed about the night before e died,or what his thoughts were in his last moments. We knew that his celluloid deat had to be filmed three or four times, since each time a knife was put to is throat he would laugh. And we know that both times he died as as extra,without taking any active part in the two huge massacres, separated by more than half a century, whose only common factor was Nezir himself.
excerpt from Postcards from the grave by Emir Suljagic, translated by Lejla Haveric, copyright: The Bosnian Institute (London)