"Those were terrible days. There was no electricity and water. We were in winter and each day the bombing continued. Everywhere was filled with the dead and injured. When his mother abandoned him as soon as she gave birth, we, the hospital staff, embraced him and named him Alen. Because my house was right across the hospital, I brought him home from time to time. When Alen was finally seven months old, the Red Cross wanted to take him away from us. My family and I were so used to Alen that we were not willing to let him go. And we adopted him.”
Muharrem Muhic, who experienced the most violent days of the Bosnian War in the city of Gorajde, tells the tale of how he met Alen, who was born from a Muslim woman in February 1993, in a hospital where he was an employee. Alen Muhic is one of the thousands of children who was born resulting of the Serbs’ rape of Bosnian women during the war. The difference is that, contrary to others, he openly confronted this fact and was actively involved in campaigns launched to bring criminals to justice.
Alen’s mother - whose name is kept confidential for security reasons because she testifies for victims at courts- lived in the eastern Bosnian town of Miljeniva until the war. The nightmarish days for hundreds of Muslim women like her began, as the Serbs occupied the region in 1992 and separated the men from their women.
His mother, who was held in the camps controlled by Serb soldiers for several months and released through the exchange of captives at the end of 1992, was transferred to Gorajde along with some 200 Muslim women. Alen's mom, who was already pregnant at that time, hid her belly in a corset and wore thick dresses during and after the strenuous journey. Since it was winter, her pregnancy was not detected and she finally gave birth to her son at the Gorajde Hospital.
"She did not even want to see the face of her baby," remembers Muharrem Muhic, "She did not even breastfeed him. The next day, early in the morning, we noticed that she had had left the baby at the hospital. The mother and the baby did not see each other again. "
Alen's mother, who is one of the approximately 30,000 Bosnian women who were raped by the Serbs during the war, first went to the capital of Sarajevo and then to the U.S., through the path of Grebak, the only way out of the besieged Gorajde. The mother who married there and gave birth to two more sons, has only spoken to her son Alen few times on the phone so far, and they uttered just a few sentences…
Alen, who had a very happy childhood as the son of Muharrem Muhic and his wife, Advija, until he was 11, had a great shock at the school one day, when his friends had called him "A bastard of Chetnicks.” Thus, Muharrem and his wife decided to disclose the truth to Alen, who questioned them about this at home.
Alen Muhic said he was greatly angered at first. "But then, I confronted the truth. I was enraged with my mom at first, but now I think she is innocent. I want to meet my mother and half-brothers."
The former Serbian soldier, Alen's birth father, was taken to court in Sarajevo in 2007 and sentenced to five and a half years in prison. However, the following year, when two secret witnesses claimed that Alen's mother and father were lovers before the war, the case was dismissed and his father was acquitted. Alen said, "He's a war criminal. I will never forgive him.”
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There are numerous striking stories of the Bosnian War (1992-1995), one of the most terrible genocides in recent history. Documentaries are being prepared, films and series are being shot, books are being written, festivals are being held… We already have a great deal of knowledge about the great tragedies and bitterness of the Bosnian War. Every year commemorative ceremonies help us remember these tragedies again and again. Our knowledge of war is very rich on this count.
Remembering pain and commemorating the victims are undoubtedly meaningful acts. But is it also fairly thought-provoking that the massacres and genocides that we chastise saying "they will never happen again,” are ceaselessly reoccurring? Things that we say "we will not forget, we will not let be forgotten" are turned into a routine and are repeated in other regions, and we come to have no belief in slogans.
I felt the same thing while listening to what was said about the 9,000 people who were atrociously murdered during the Srebrenica Massacre which we marked yesterday on its anniversary. "Never again" was said many times. However, the Islamic world has not been able to put an end to mass slaughter before and after Srebrenica. On the contrary, we have crowds who pin their hope on the conflict between external forces and wearily watch the slaughter happening in front of them.
Someday, we will also commemorate the current massacres in Syria and other countries with colorful ceremonies. Maybe war criminals will be brought to the court. The details of events will inspire our writers, poets and filmmakers. Much literary production will commemorate what had come to pass. Like all of the other pain in history.
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It’s high time to ask: “Never again,” but how? After all these chain of tragedies and massacres, we must learn a lesson from history and deliberate on how to establish and operate preventive mechanisms.
Otherwise, the ones who die, die and the survivors commemorate them with events.