Prijedor’s Articles of Death

29. May 2015.00:00
In the summer of 1992, the newspaper Kozarski Vjesnik published a story stating that a doctor from Prijedor, Osman Mahmuljin, knowingly gave bad medical treatment to a colleague, Zivko Dukic, who had suffered a heart attack.

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“Instead of the doctor doing what seemed mandatory in such cases, Mahmuljin decided to do something that would certainly surprise the biggest medical laymen, let alone the medical staff,” reads the article, “He Survived All Therapies.”

“Morphine, which was in sufficient quantities, did not reach the ill cardiologist, and somewhere on the way to the department, oxygen also was lost,” said the article, which did not have a byline. “Instead of accelerating his heartbeat, Dr. Mahmuljin did exactly the opposite.”

Mahmuljin was one of many non-Serbs targeted by the newspaper and Radio Prijedor. He would die soon after in the detention camps of Prijedor. Some 3,000 people were killed in Prijedor. While number of fighters have been prosecuted for car crimes, not a single journalist has been indicted.

“Osman was an honourable, honest man and capable doctor,” says Nusret Sivac, a good friend of Mahmuljin’s. “What they did is the roughest and dirtiest blackening of somebody. It killed Osman Mahmuljin.”

Sivac, who then worked in the local bureau of Television Sarajevo said the prominent Bosniak citizens were “portrayed as monsters” by Serb media.

Pressure builds on non-Serbs

In the summer of 1991, relations between the different ethnic groups deteriorated. At that time, agreements of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) were falling apart and the programmes of TV Sarajevo was replaced by programmes from Banja Luka and Belgrade, after the Serb forces captured transmitter on a nearby mountain Kozara.

Sivac’s sister, Nusreta, who worked as a judge in Prijedor, recalls the strained relations among citizens.

“You know, people have already started to divide, to argue with each other. It was intense since the war in Croatia started,” she says.

The role of the media in this came through in testimony given by Prijedor residents at the Hague Tribunal. They spoke of the TV programmes where Serb Democratic Party said Serbs were trying to Preserve Yugoslavia, while others wanted to destroy it. The residents also spoke of media reports about the massacre of Serbs in World War II, and how the Serb population must arm themselves in order to avoid the repeat of history.

It put pressure on non-Serbs, who were beginning to leave Prijedor.

“We all were waiting for something to happen. And it happened at the end of April 1992, when Serbs by the classic military and police coup overthrew the legitimate representatives of the authorities,” Nusret Sivac says.

The Serb side began violently seizing the power during the night of April 29, and it was completed the next day. Radio Prijedor broadcasted a proclamation of the new government. It is announced that “there must never be more war and carnage, rubble and burning, site of fires and crying.”

“That is why is necessary that we remain calm, reasonable, to live and work, establish normal life and work flow that has been disrupted by the one-party and one-nationality authority of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action,” Radio Prijedor announced.

“We were second-class citizens and we had to keep quiet, endure and to look at what is happening in the city,” says Nusret, who was fired from his job along with his sister and others.

Radio Prijedor instructed the non-Serb population on May 31 to hang white flags and wear white bands while moving around the city.

Sivac kept his movements to a minimum. One memory that stands out is meeting a hairdresser he knew. She was in a uniform and two grenades on her belt.

“I asked: ‘Slavo, what’s this?’ She says this is for Serbs to not experience again what they have experienced in 1942 at Kozara,” Nusret says.

Newspaper read by camp guards

A month after the seizure of power, Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje detention camps were established.

Sivac, who had been detained, encountered Mahmuljin at a police station.

“They had beaten Dr. Osman Mahumljin the most. He was almost unconscious and his arm was broken. After that, we were thrown into a police van and they took us to Omarska detention camp,” Sivac says.

Men were tortured in Prijedor’s detention camps. Many were killed, while the girls and women were raped.

Editions of Kozarski Vjesnik are distributed to the camps and read by the guards.

Nusreta Sivac believes that the articles of Kozarski Vjesnik contributed to the killings. While they may not have been the only reason,“they helped and encouraged all sorts of crimes,” she says.

Kozarski Vjesnik also reported that Nusreta that she was involved in organizing an attack with the aim of overthrowing of Serb authorities.

“Luckily, that was not published during my stay in detention camp or in Prijedor. Who knows how I would have finished,” Nusreta says.

Her brother, Nusret, believes that the media had a direct role in the killings.

“Whoever is called upon by Kozarski Vjesnik and Radio Prijedor in 1992 was liquidated,” Nusret says.

Amer Jahić

This post is also available in: Bosnian