12 hours in Bosnia

12 hours in Bosnia

I was in Sarajevo for 12 hours last week with Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak. While we were walking through a graveyard to visit the grave of the wise Alija Izetbegovic, I noted the death dates carved on gravestones around. They were 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995. 

The final years of the Bosnian War were my first years in journalism. I remember it as if it was yesterday; the merciless massacres done by the Serbian butcher, the impassivity of Europe, the joy that Bosniaks, especially women, displayed in the face of the murderers, the tragic marketplace massacre. 

I always experience the same feeling while I walk past the Snipers Alley (Selimović Boulevard); while I look at bullet marks that have not been repaired on purpose; the Cumurja Bridge, where an assassination that sparked the First World War took place; while I stare away at the surrounding hills… I feel sad; I remember the women who died at the marketplace, an image that was in my dreams for years; my eyes fill with tears… 

Sometimes I remember the hospitality of a Bosnian family; how they shared their stale bread with us, I remember the smell of that bread, then I smile… 

It was in Sarajevo when I learned the horror of war and the value of peace for the first time. Sarajevo is like a first love to me. This is why I have watched the film “Before the Rain” dozens of times. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a fantastic geography. You are probably familiar with it if you have been to Mostar and Blagaj Tekke. 

This time we went to Foça after crossing the steep mountains all covered in green. It is in one of the three small states that form the Bosnia and Herzegovina federation; the Serbian Republic (Republika Sırpska). 

I shared a photo I took there on my Instagram account and asked my followers where I was. (You can find the photos if you like on @deniz_zeyrek)

Most of the answers were “The Black Sea,” “Artvin,” “Şavşat” and “Rize.” They were right, because I had not told them I was abroad. When they saw the village houses; the greenest ever mountain slope; the mosque and the minaret; the pine forest, they thought it was Turkey, most probably somewhere on the Black Sea coast. 

The mosques are standing, but they are not filled even at Friday prayers, because while half of the town was Bosnian before the war, today only 52 Bosnian families are left. 

The restaurant we stopped at in Foça was on an island between two branches on a river. The Bosniak member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, told Kaynak that the place we were was a former prison, and he was held in this prison for a long time. 

On the way back to Ankara, Kaynak said the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) had the highest number of projects in Bosnia. 

There is an ongoing project to end the water problems of Sarajevo. Istanbul Water and Sewage Administration (İSKİ) executives and Kaynak are working hard to complete the project. 

In the past, TİKA has always been mentioned and criticized for only dealing with repairing mosques and tombs. Now I understand that they are focusing on development projects and projects to serve fundamental needs. 

Recently, Salafist movements from Arab countries have been pouring money into Bosnia and they are getting stronger. Against these movements, Turkey is the biggest assurance for Bosnia. 

The more Turkey supports Bosnia’s development, the more Turkish tourists visit Bosnia, the stronger Bosnia will become. When Bosnia is strong, peace, which is at a knife’s edge, will be more long-lasting. Be assured of that. Bosnia deserves every penny.