Islamic States' Concern for Bosnia
Iran, Pakistan are in the forefront of the fight to defend Muslims in the former Yugoslavia
BRUSSELS — REPORTS of atrocities committed by Serbs against Muslims in the former Yugoslav republics have stirred up a wave of reprobation throughout the Islamic world. The consternation has not, so far, produced an Islamic coalition in support of the Muslims, but:
* Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, after meeting in Tehran with Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic on Thursday, last week called on the United Nations to "find a way to put an end to the slaughter of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina."
* Pakistan, elected to the UN Security Council last week, is organizing an attempt to have Islamic countries pressure the UN into further action.
Iran, in particular, has positioned itself at the forefront of this fight to defend Yugoslavia's Islamic minority. Iranians reportedly flew a planeload of arms to Bosnia in September and on Oct. 21 Iran's government promised a shipment of heating oil to the beseiged city of Sarajevo.
"This is an uneven fight," explained an aide to President Hashemi Rafsanjani in a recent telephone interview, "because the Serbs inherited the bulk of the [Yugoslav Army's] heavy weaponry. This is why Iran asks for a lifting of the embargo on shipments of arms to Bosnia.
On Sept. 4, Croatian officials said they intercepted at Zagreb airport a planeload of Iranian arms headed for Bosnia. European intelligence sources began as early as May to accuse the Iranians of shipping arms to the Muslim-dominated government of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But Iranian authorities have repeatedly denied that their country is smuggling weapons to the Balkans. `Islamic volunteers'
In an Oct. 8 communique Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced "their readiness to go and fight against the Serbs in order to defend Bosnian Muslims." A few days later Iran's Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on European governments to "take action to prevent the slaughter of Muslim Bosnians. If they don't want to do it by themselves they should allow our young Islamic volunteers to enter the battlefield." Some Iranian, Afghan, and Saudi Arabian fighters are believed to be aiding the Bosnian
On Oct. 21 President Rafsanjani announced that his country will donate 100,000 tons of heating oil to Bosnia. But Iranian diplomats in Europe concede they do not know how this oil will actually reach Sarajevo.
The Iranian media report daily on the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The "ethnic cleansing" policy carried out by the Serbs in the territories under their control is compared by Iranian editorialists to the policy led by Zionists in Palestine in the late 1940s.
Said one Iranian journalist contacted in Tehran: "This strategy led to the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes and paved the way to the creation of the state of Israel. A Serb-dominated state in Bosnia-Herzegovina ... would trigger problems in the Balkans region for decades," says this writer. "This is why we do believe that the Europeans should tackle the question without any further delay." A similar analysis was made repeatedly in August by Bosnian Foreign Minister Haris Silajdzic while on a tour of Islamic countries that included Iran.
"I tell you, my Islamic brothers, that we won't accept to become Europe's Palestinians," the minister said at a press conference in the United Arab Emirates in August.
In a recent interview with the French daily Le Monde, the former Yugoslavia's Islamic spiritual leader, Yacoub Selimovski, said: "Bosnia-Herzegovina must have its place in Europe. It would be a mistake by the Europeans not to recognize Islam as a religion equal to the others. If Europe refuses to help us we will accept weapons from any country that will offer them." $8 million donation
Anti-Serb as well as anti-Western feelings are running high in monarchies on the southern shore of the Persian Gulf as well. Charities there have been collecting money for months for Muslims of the former Yugoslav republics. Saudi Arabia's monarch made a personal contribution of $8 million, as have the rulers of other Gulf emirates.
Editorialists from the state-controlled press in Saudi Arabia bitterly criticize the West for refusing to use military force to put an end to Serb offensives in Bosnia. The Saudi daily Okaz wrote in September: "Western governments do act according to their own interests and not to the principles they claim to defend."
A Moroccan diplomat contacted in Paris said emotion is running high in North African countries as well. "You can't prevent people from drawing a parallel between Bosnia and Kuwait," he explains. "When the emirate was invaded by neighboring Iraq, the West reacted immediately because its strategic interests were threatened. Now Bosnia is being invaded by neighboring Serbia and the West refuses to use force to drive the aggressor out. My question is why? I'm afraid the answer is: There is no oil in Bosnia-H erzegovina."