Neighbour with the enemy

Srebrenica Travel Blog

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The memoiral place in Srebrenica. Over 2500 tomb stones for the men and women who died here. Very touching.

Muslim woman Mehmedovic Dogaz lost two of her sons during the massacre in Srebrenica and still lives next door to the people she thinks helped kill them.  


By Natasja Engholm and Morten Ravn


She is sitting with her hands in her lap, dressed in a long flowered skirt, a blue shirt blouse and a white scarf around her head.

This is from the building where the dutch UN soldiers were staying
Under her is a soft felt blanket spread out on the stone stair running from her house.

                      The air is dry and hot and the only thing breaking the silence is the constant sound of bluebottles buzzing. Once, the house was filled with life and noise. It was at that time when the 57 year old Mehmedovic Dogaz’ family was still alive. On this day she is sitting drinking peach juice outside her house situated near the town of Srebrenica together with the last two members of the family, a second cousin and her husband, except for an 11 year old grandson living in Sweden. 


Her husband, Mustafa, was killed October 10th 1992 by a grenade, which the Bosnian Serbs fired against the house of her daughter-in-law, while he was visiting. Exactly one week prior, the 3rd of October 1992, Mehmedovic Dogaz oldest son, Zuhdija, was killed by another grenade at exactly the same spot.

This is the building where the women and children were kept while being told that there sons, brothers, fathers and husbands were going to be ok. Some were also executed and raped in here by the serbs.

     “His heart was blown into pieces and both his legs were broken”, she says weeping.


The worst neighbours

Three years later, July 11th 1995, Mehmedovic Dogaz, saw her two youngest sons, Munib and Omer, respectively 21 and 19 years old, for the last time. That was when she, along with most of the other women and children of Srebrenica, were forced into bussed and trucks and driven away from the town.

                      Then the Bosnian Serbs killed the more than 7.000 Bosnian Muslims who were held back in the town, among them the two youngest sons of Mehmedovic Dogaz. Their bodies have not yet been found.

                      The former Bosnian-Serbian politician, Radovan Karadziz, and Ratko Mladic, general in the Bosnian-Serbian army are believed to be behind the massacre, and to this day they are still wanted in connection with these crimes against humanity

The massacre also caused a lot of international awareness, because it happened in an area that was controlled by Dutch FN-soldiers and had been declared a safe zone.

                      As by the most evil irony of fate, Mehmedovic Dogaz today lives with neighbours of the worst kind she could ever imagine.  From her back yard she has a view over the memorial place, where the victims of the massacre are buried. This is also the place where her sons probably will be buried under the traditional green Muslim tomb stone, if their corpses are ever found.

                      And behind a field, not far from the little grit road that leads to her house, lives on of the men who she believes helped kill her children.

                      After coming back from Tuzla in 2000, where she had been living for four year after being taken away from Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serbs, one day she went to see the house that she lived in during the war.

                      Suddenly her Serbian neighbour came driving towards her in his little truck. He got out of the car and came towards her, while looking at her in a threatening way.


Mehmedovic Dogaz got scared and reported the incident to the police.

But it was not to be the last unpleasant incident with her neighbour.

“One morning I was cleaning my house, when my neighbour passed by once again. He cursed my sons and told me it was a good thing that they were dead. Apparently he new that my children were dead, even though they haven’t been found yet”

     Mehmedovic Dogaz is today convinced that the neighbour participated in the genocide of her sons and many of the other Muslim men in Srebrenica.

                      “How else did he know they were dead?” she asks.


Threatened her grandson

Mehmedovic Dogaz rocks back and forward on the blanket with her legs folded under her.

She cries a little bit and then exclaims:

“Why did my son have to die? They were innocent. The children were not to blame for the war and if the Serbs wanted to take Srebrenica, they could have done it. They should not have killed our children. Slaughtering them like animals. Our children were slaughtered and left, soaked in their own blood.”

She sits for a moment, wiping the tears away from her face, before she gets up and goes into her house. After a short while, she returns with a crumpled envelope that used to be white, but now looks like it has been handled many times before. She takes a small pile of pictures out of the envelope and shows them. These are pictures of her husband and three dead sons and the grandchild who survived and is now living in Sweden.

                      The pictures are blow-ups of ID-cards, because all the family’s personal photographs were gone when Mehmedovic Dogaz returned to her house after the war. She takes a deep breath in order not to cry.

     ”Dogaz Mustafa. Dogaz Zuhdija. Dogaz Munib. Dogaz Omer. Dogaz Izudin”.

She is practically massing the names of the family members, while showing the pictures one by one. When she shows the picture of her grandson, who is the child of her youngest son, she stops.

                      ”He was here last year and asked for his daddy. Why should it be necessary for a little boy to ask where his father is? He has never gotten the chance to know his father because he was not born, when my son was murdered by the Serbs.

Why did this happen?”, she asks, even though she has probably asked herself and others this question a lot of times before without getting an answer.       

                      She talks about a time when her grandson was visiting her. He was playing with the cat in the farmyard in front of her house. The cat was yelling to the cat in Swedish and at that very moment Mehmedovic Dogaz’ Serbian neighbour drove by. The neighbour understood the boys’ yelling as being provocative, as he didn’t understand Swedish, turned his truck and returned to the boy.

                      “Are you threatening me?” he asked the frightened boy.

                      “How can an 11 year old boy be a threat to a grown man?” Mehmedovic Dogaz asks.

                      ”He just hates him, because he’s not dead like his father and uncles.


Friends before the war

Before the war, ethnical heritage and religion were not something people in Srebrenica cared about.

Even when Mehmedovic Dogaz’ oldest son was married her Serbian neighbour was welcomed as a guest. Today Mehmedovic Dogaz only has a few Serbian friends, who she knows didn’t participate in the massacre.

She has no contact with her former Serbian neighbours and she does not want to have contact as she thinks they were the people who killed her sons.

                      “I know of people who participated in the killings and still have their job. They are still here and they are still working. And everyone knows who they are,” she says.

For a moment the grief and despair in her look is replaced by anger and determination.

                       “I can never forgive them. If I killed my neighbour, would her mother forgive me? Especially if she had never done anything to hurt me”.


Fears nothing more

She has lost everything. Mehmedovic Dogaz only has a little family left. The house that she lived in during the war, has no electricity and is therefore empty.

Her current house she has rented from one of her Muslim neighbours but it has neither water nor a bathroom.

                      She has nothing to help her in her everyday life and there’s no help if she get’s sick. She has never considered moving, because Srebrenica is where her husband and children are buried. And as she says:

                      ”Where would I go?”

Still, Mehmedovic Dogaz is not afraid of anything anymore, not even the thought of another war.

                      “I fear nothing and nothing surprises me. Not as long as people who killed other people are free in Bosnia. Why are they not in Haag where they belong? Why are they hiding the truth? The Serbs deny that a homicide, that killed 10.000 people from nine counties of Srebrenica, took place. Only because they were Muslims. But someone must have killed them”, she says.

                      A couple of days ago a group of Dutch children came to see Srebrenica. Mehmedovic Dogaz went to the grown-up leader of the group and said:

                      “How brave you were. The homicide has taken place- why did you decide to come back?”

                      ”The Serbs slaughtered us but implicit the Dutch soldiers did so too”, she thinks.

                      “They were 100 meters away from our border. The Dutch soldiers gave the Serbs their uniform so that they could walk about in the “safe zone”. But the Serb had a habit of writing on the cigarette boxes: “We were here.” So it’s proving that they were present. They took the weapons we had and those who were able to escape did so, the rest were slaughtered. If it’s necessary for me to go to Haag in order to get justice, I’ll do so”.


Far away from forgiveness

Today Mehmedovic Dogaz feels like she can look her Serbian neighbours in the eyes because her sons were good people.

                      “My children had never done anything bad to anyone. I raised my children to behave decent and do the right thing.”

She closes her eyes for a minute. Then she continues in a quite voice.

                      “The Serbs ought to be ashamed because they killed not only my sons, but the sons of a lot of other mothers.”

                      Today Mehmedovic Dogaz only lives to find out the truth about who killed her sons and put the people responsible to justice.

In Srebrenica there are now 33 cemeteries of victims from the war and many bodies are still waiting to be found or identified. She says that it is the only thing giving her the strength to continue.

     However, Mehmedovic Dogaz

Thinks there is hope of reconciliation between the Serbs, the Muslims and the Croats in Bosnia.

                      “If Radovan Karadziz, Ratko Mladic and all the other war criminals are punished for what they did. Maybe then. But even though the res of the world know that they are criminals, the Serbian Medias still claim that these people are heroes. And until Serbia admits to the crimes of these people, I will never forgive them.”


    Facts about the massacre in Srebrenica

Srebrenica is a small town in Eastern Bosnia, which is a part of the Serbian area Republicca Srpska. Before the war two thirds of the inhabitants of the town were Muslims and a third were Serbs.

More than 40.000 Muslims were refugees in Srebrenica during the war and the area was declared a “safe zone” under the protection of UN.

On the 6th of July the Bosnian-Serbian general Ratko Mladic and his troops forced the way into the Srebrenica area, taking the Dutch UN soldiers hostage.

Busses were waiting to take 23.000 women, children and elderly away from Srebrenica.  During the period July 12-July 20. Serbian soldiers killed more than 7.000 men and boys.


Source:, Bosnien-Hercegovina by Birthe Lauritsen


wade5000 says:
Some "people's" capacity to do these kind of acts will never cease to horrify me.
Posted on: Oct 29, 2008
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Reconciliation. Ten years ago the different ethnical groups were fighting each other in Bosnia. Today they try, more or less successfully, to heal the wounds and live together as one nation. The next four Sundays you can read four articles, each with starting-point in different situations, which describes how the Bosnians try to forgive the past and move on.  

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photo by: rachrmn