Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change


Community leader argues that returning refugees prevented Bosnia dividing into totally segregated units.

An interview with Fadil Banjanovic -- prior to his death in 2011 -- who made it his mission to ensure the safe return of forcibly displaced communities to eastern Bosnia after the war.

Banjanovic, who went by the nickname Bracika, describes leading convoys of returning villagers, not just from his own Bosniak group but from others too.

In his own village, Kozluk, near Zvornik, Serbs from other parts of Bosnia were resettled during the war to replace those who had left and create an ethnically uniform society. At the time the process seemed irreversible, but non-Serbs began returning as early as 1996 -- a year after the Dayton Agreement that ended the war.

At the time, he said, he was assailed by both Bosniak and Serb political leaders, the former saying he was leading Muslims back to the slaughter, and the latter accusing him of "destroying the Serb state".

"The returnees are the heroes. They are the people who have implemented reintegration," he said, arguing that if Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats not gone home, "this country would have been divided into monoethnic corrals".

He said Kozluk was now an example of coexistence and tolerance, but there was still unease and apprehension among its residents.

"They are afraid of those fools who think that they are great Muslims, great Serbs, great Croats," he said. "Today, one part of the religious communities spreads tolerance, respect, reconciliation. Unfortunately, there are also a number of religious people who spread hatred."

This film was produced by IWPR and Mebius Film to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of war in Bosnia, under IWPR's Programme for the Western Balkans and ICTY, funded by the Norwegian government.