The Long Read: In Bosnia, an international organisation is digging up mass mausoleums and using cutting edge scientific research to give scapegoats pedigrees some feel of close and justice
They are the unquiet dead. Laid out in rows inside a former industrial building on the edge of the Bosnian municipality of Sanski Most. Some of the skeletons are almost complete, others only a pelvic bone and some assorted ribs, ordered as though to await the advent of more.
This place was used to process wood before Bosnias war of the early 1990 s, and now it operations it endeavours to assemble the dead. The remains are laid out on created trays, and at the hoof of each lies possessions located with the body when it was exhumed, inevitably from a mass grave. So to walk through this room of demise is also to walk through these people lives and last moments. A duo of coaches here, a checked shirt there, a watch or wallet. What made this person pick a yellow-bellied sweater rather than another on a market railing, and chance to be wearing it when taken out to be assassinated? Why striped socks beneath this half-assembly of bones, plain ones to accompany the next? Who were these beings?
In this building, run by the Krajina Identification Project, there is industriou purpose. These dead parties had been missing for 24 times, along with tens of thousands of others, while their families survivors of the hurricane of violence that blew through this area of Europe examined, wondered, panicked the worst.
This facility is one in a chain that seeks to answer that question, the operational activities of the which is the most remarkable entwinement of science, human rights and justice in “todays world”. The duty is to locate and exhume the 40,000 people who went missing after the countries of the western Balkan crusades the worst carnage to blight Europe since the Third Reich then to make their remains insofar as they can be found, identify them, give them names, and return these dead back to the life of burying. It is scientific work at its most committed and advanced, helping to meet humen most primal motivation: to implant or in some way ritualise the remains of our dead.
Beside a rough superhighway that clambers a remote mountainside, between the towns of Prijedor and Sanski Most, lies the house that Zijad Bai has rebuilt in the hamlet of arakovo, from the ashes to which it was charred in 1992. Next to the house, where he now plays football with his son, Adin, is a meagre marble monument, on which are carved their lists of 38 people, many of them members of Zijads extended family. Some of them were killed during the night of 25 July 1992; others faded. Zijad was 15 years old on the night that after his father and most other mortals had been taken away to concentration camps Serbian death squads came back to mop up the women and children.
We were at home, he withdraws, when we heard the soldiers singers. Come on out! Come on out! My father gestured to us: “were supposed to”. As soon as they went out, and another kinfolks around us, machine guns inaugurated shooting. I recognised one of “the mens”, the others wore balaclavas. They were about five years older than me. I watched my mother reached firstly and fall down, then my brother and sister and I extended behind a bush to obscure. I stayed there until they had finished filming and hollering I recognised another of the balaclava soldiers from his expression; they came from merely down in the depression, the latter are neighbours.
My mother, and my brother and sister were dead. But I survived. I was behaved on the convoys, and went to a refugee camp in Germany. And I never contemplated Id come back here, but I couldnt sleep without knowing what happened. Where were they? I had to find my missing father, all my uncles, and to find where they had hidden my mother, younger brother and sister.
There ought to have seven stoppages in connection with the extermination of the arakovo villagers. Two of the accused ought to have released on bail under house arrest, and Zijad thinks they are the men he recognised on the night of the massacre. Thats one of their houses right there, he says, pointing towards a white be built upon the depression floor. Were said he hopes that these trials will disclose where their own families is. Im going to testify. Even though were surrounded by them, I have no fear of anyone or anything any more. My alone need in life is to find those I have lost.
Where Zijads mountain lane matches a tarmac byway, there countenances a little patronize are maintained by Zijads uncle, Fikret Bai, who takes my notebook and writes a index of their lists of his extended family who went missing during the last week of July 1992. It takes him a very long time; there are 29 of them, including his mother Sehria, his wife Ninka, son Nermin, who was 12, daughter Nermina, who was six, four brothers including Zijads father, three sisters, various aunts, uncles and cousins. Of the 29, 19 are children; a very young was two.