Located Serbia, Slobodan Miloševi?, was strongly against the

Located in Bosnia, the capital city Sarajevo is composed of multiple ethnicities: the Muslim Bosniaks, the Orthodox Christian Serbs and the Catholic Croats. The Bosniaks formed the majority of the population, followed by the Serbs and the Croats. This multicultural diversity under the Communist state of Yugoslavia lead to ethnic tensions as the country began to collapse during the fall of the Communist Party in 1990. In March 1992, Bosnia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, resulting in conflicts that lead to the longest siege in history, Siege of Sarajevo. The Serbians, with the goal to create a pure Serbian state of Republika Srpska (RS) that would include parts of Bosnian territory, began to carry a policy of “ethnic cleansing” towards the Muslim Bosniaks.The leader of Serbia, Slobodan Miloševi?, was strongly against the efforts toward independence. He wanted the borders of the republics under Yugoslavia to be redrawn to form a new Greater Serbian state. However, negotiations failed and resulted in independence of some of the republics. Beginning on April 6, 1992, the same day the European Union recognized Bosnia as an independent country, Serbia set out a mission to ethnically cleanse Bosnian territory by systematically killing and persecuting  all Muslim Bosniaks. The Serbian nationalist wanted to create a “Greater Serbia”, a state which incorporates all traditional significance of Serbia. The Serbs living Bosnia wanted to seize Bosnian territory for themselves in order to create unity between their own kind. This strong desire to establish a Serbian-only territory cost thousands of innocent lives. The Serbs held stronger military advantage over the Bosnian Muslim and with the aid from former Yugoslavian military equipment, the Serbs attacked the Bosnian Muslims and surrounded Sarajevo. Attacks against human rights were committed including but not limited to ethnic cleansing, rape, mass executions and starvation. Serbs and Bosnian Serbs held positions inside the city, including major places such as the airport and the surrounding hills. By May 1992, the entire city of Sarajevo was surrounded by them. Even though the Serbs were well equipped with weapons, the city’s defenders, armed with anti-tank weapons, were able to stop the Serbs from attacking. Encountered with the Bosniaks and Croats, the Serbs decided to raise ammunition towards the city with their artillery and began targeting civilians with sniper attacks. People who opposed to a “Greater Serbia” were cut off from from food supplies, electricity and medicine as means of torture. Civilians were forced to drink dirty water as water filters were blew up by the Serbs. The airport was shut down and all transportations leading in and out of Sarajevo were blocked off. The residents were trapped and tortured from starvation. Their chances for survival was highly dependent on the success of the United Nations’ airlifts from the Sarajevo airport.Thousands of civilians were killed and wounded. Snipers hid in the surrounding hills and high rises in the city to target and shoot at the residents. Women and children were not spared. Streets that are under constant sniper fire became known as sniper alleys with common signs reading “Pazi – Snajper!” (watch out – snipers!) as warnings. Rather than walking, it became a daily routine for people to hide and run to stay out of sniper’s views.Throughout the course of the siege, the non-Serbian areas of the city were attacked with more than 300 artillery and mortar shells a day. On the most detrimental days, there were an estimated of 3,777 shells that fell on the city within a single day. Every place was targeted including schools, markets, hospitals, and public buildings. Dead bodies filled the landscape of the city and it was an unavoidable sight. By August 1992, no aspects of life in Sarajevo was safe. It was dangerous to the point that mourning the dead can result in more death as the Serbs began to attack the mourners and cemeteries. To avoid danger, mourners had to hold funerals in darkness. Similarly, education during the siege did not take place in schools but were rather organized in basements and places such as hair salons. A teacher in Sarajevo during the time said that “children came to school hungry, pale and frozen” and had to crouch in corners, with papers on their laps. Classes were taught under candlelight because there was no sources of electricity. Not only did the Serbs killed innocent lives, they also committed sexual violence including  rape as military strategy to destroy families and communities. Over thousands of women and children, mainly Muslim Bosniaks, were systematically raped. Testimonies from victim who survived the siege, Jasmina, revealed that “everyday she and her children were raped”. This inhumane act had been known to be a “mass rape”, which was one of the main strategy used as a weapon during the combat.  The siege of Sarajevo lead the United Nations to declare six safe zones for the Bosnian Muslims where they could take shelter from the attacks. Mass attacks showed a need for a peace agreement between the two groups. The United States’ President Jimmy Carter arranged for a Peace Accords which was executed and signed by both the Serbs and the Bosniaks. However, the Serbs refused to move their ammunition and other heavy weaponry out of Sarajevo. This caused a step back from the treaty and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launched an aircraft attack on the Serbian ammunition. Upon the attack, a new, revised treaty was needed as the previous Peace Accords only held for about 4 months. Leaders of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia agreed to a settlement and the Dayton Accords was created and signed by all in Dayton, Ohio. This new peace agreement officially ended the war in Bosnia as well as the Siege of Sarajevo and allowed 60,000 NATO troops into the territories for peacekeeping. The treaty also resulted in the creation of two new states, Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the effort to avoid ethnic conflicts, the Muslim Croats were to control one country and Bosnian-Serbs were to be in control over the other.At the end of the Siege of Sarajevo, the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) initially found that Serbia has not committed genocide and cannot take the blame. However, later ruling found that the ethnic cleansing tactics and aggression the Serb forces committed against the victims did define the terms for a genocide and therefore, Serbia was found at blame. The Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and his military commander were arrested and convicted of war crimes. I agree with the ruling that the Serbians should be the ones to blame for the Siege of Sarajevo and the destructive outcomes. The violence committed against innocent lives including children such as mass starvation and rape as a campaign for ethnic cleansing is insanely inhumane and unredeemable. This idea of ethnic cleansing is no difference from that of the Nazi atrocities during the Holocaust. In addition, I think that the siege was an act of cowardice of the Serbs because they blockaded the city and forced a slow war of attrition. It was a war that impacted thousands of people both physically and psychologically. Rather than easily taking over Sarajevo, Serbia played a mental game and made people live in fear. People would rather starve themselves rather than going out of their home to get food and other living resources because they might get shot by a sniper. While creating diversity is important, multiple ethnics, when forced to be together, create a very unstable society. The bloody violence and the loss of innocent lives resulted from the disintegration of Yugoslavia shows that ethnic tension can be very destructive. Additionally, the need for multiple peace treaties to end the war also suggest failure in foreign policies that have taken place in Europe since World War II.


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