I AM from Sarajevo. It is my home, and I am going back to Sarajevo. For you it may be strange to think that I would go back. But it is our city, and we have made our choice. I don't want to be a refugee just because some fascist from the mountains wants to push me out because we are different nationalities. For me, it is a question of personal dignity. Our choice has been for our beautiful city. We love our city so much, and we want to save it.
I am a newspaperman, a writer and editor. My paper is called Oslobodenje, a word meaning ``liberation.'' The paper was established in 1943 as a voice of the anti-fascist resistance.
At Oslobodenje all nationalities work together. Some 30 percent are Serbs; 40 percent are Muslims; 20 percent are Croats; 10 percent are Jews and others. It is funny for me to say this since for us it is nothing special; but it is important to say here: For us in Sarajevo this is normal. Foreign journalists ask: Is it possible for all of you to live together in Sarajevo? How can they ask us this? Living together has been our reality for 800 years.
Before the current siege, Oslobodenje was one of the biggest daily newspapers in what was Yugoslavia. Now we are the last daily paper in Sarajevo. We print in a ruined building 100 meters from the front line. We have been under shelling and sniper fire for two years. Five colleagues have been killed and 20 wounded in and around the building. But the future is not a question. We will stay in our shelter writing and printing our newspaper. Our paper is a daily miracle. And we will stay here until the end of the story.
But this is nothing special. We are not heroes. We don't want to be heroes. We are just a part of the civilization of Sarajevo, the traditions and reality of Sarajevo.
During my trip in the United States I found much misunderstanding about the situation in Bosnia.
The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina is not the result of hundreds of years of hate between nationalities and religions. In Sarajevo, more than 35 percent of all marriages are mixed marriages. I am a Muslim from Belgrade. When I married my wife, I did not know the nationality of her parents. Her father is a Serb and her mother is a Croat. This is nothing special in Sarajevo.
In truth, this war is the result of the manipulation by the people who are now in power. Who are they? The third-rate bureaucrats from the old Communist regime. We called them ``apparatchiks.'' Before the Berlin Wall came down, nobody knew them. Now they have manipulated the nationalist feelings of the uneducated from the countryside - to provoke a war serving their own criminal interests.
Their first step was to fire all journalists who were not nationalists. They occupied the media and established propaganda headquarters. The media fuel every day, every minute, the hate between nationalities. In Belgrade you read that the shelling of Sarajevo is really done by Muslims hoping to turn international reaction against Serbia. On Zagreb TV they said Croats in Sarajevo can't buy bread because they are not Muslims.
Journalists who write these lies are worse war criminals than soldiers. They use Goebbels's tactics in what is a war of fascism. This is not a war of ethnic hatred. It is a war against democracy.
In this war we don't have only ethnic cleansing, we have the cleansing of people of the same nationality who are not part of the ruling party. The Croatian government dismissed all university professors on the same day and then rehired depending on their political position. Excellent doctors, engineers, and teachers lost their jobs due to their politics.
It is nearly impossible in Croatia or Serbia to be an officer, a policeman, or a teacher if you are a different nationality.
Americans misunderstand the word ``Muslim.'' Bosnian Muslims are not part of the Arab Islamic world. They were originally Slavs of Bosnia. Historically they are a part of Europe, not the Middle East; they are mainly secular.
Ironically the majority of Muslims in Bosnia are against Islamization. No one calls for a Muslim Bosnia except the international community in its plan to divide Bosnia. Amazingly only the Muslims of Bosnia are against that plan. What if the multi-ethnic state in Bosnia is destroyed? What does that mean for other multi-ethnic states in the world? What does that mean for the US, the world's biggest multi-ethnic state? Our problem is more than a moral problem for the US. It is a real political problem. The US cannot accept fascism and racism in Europe and think it has no long-term effect in America.
What is happening in Bosnia is not just a war. It is genocide. What is the difference? In a war soldiers fight soldiers, tanks fight tanks. What is happening in Bosnia is a war of professional soldiers against civilians. In World War II, 50 percent of all casualties were soldiers. But in Bosnia 95 percent of the casualties are civilians. It is a genocide against civilians that no one will stop. Americans are told that to stop this genocide, the US and others must send tens of thousands of ground troops. This is not so. For three days last spring Slobodan Milosevic was willing to accept a real peace plan. At that point an airstrike looked real. Now Milosevic knows there will be no airstrike; he depends on your passivity.
I am going back to Sarajevo. For us, the citizens of Sarajevo, there is no question about what we will do. We will continue to live and work together in our city.
We will continue printing our multi-ethnic, independent newspaper. We don't have enough paper. We don't have enough gas for our generators. We don't have enough money to buy all we need on the black market. But we will continue to print, somehow. Our survival costs are $2,000 a day. We find some money from abroad, contributions from around the world. We think $2,000 a day is not so high a price for proof that living and working together freely in Sarajevo is possible. To the people of Sarajevo, we are more than a newspaper. By helping Oslobodenje, the world helps the citizens of Sarajevo.
By publishing our paper, we create the illusion that normal life can continue. The greatest threat to the aggressors outside Sarajevo is everyday normal life - normal life continuing in the city. This siege is a siege against normal life. Americans should realize that normal life in Sarajevo actually shows the happiness of living together. It means that a multi-ethnic and multi-religious history is real. It means tolerance and love are possible.
Normal life for us means that there is no chance for fascism and racism.
The aggressors want to destroy normal life; we want to save normal life. That is the difference between us.
Yes, the people of Sarajevo are suffering. But worse than the problems with food, water, and heating are new psychological problems. We ask: How is it possible for something like this to happen at the end of the century in the heart of Europe? How is it possible that all the basic principles of civilization, all our education, all the famous books of world culture, all your principles are proving to be a joke.
Some wonder: Is it our problem today that we do not hate enough? Is it really becoming a natural thing in the world today for snipers to kill children on the street for more than 18 months? Is this really the political reality in our world?
Maybe we are again at the beginning of a historical period where force is everything. So everybody should go take up arms and take what one can with arms. War accepts only the logic of arms.
If that is true, then in Sarajevo we want to be alone. Because we are not a part of that world.
But if that is not true, I can tell you only one thing. Even if you don't care about me or about us, at least care about yourselves. The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.