Humanitarian and doctor Svetlana Broz spoke about the crimes and consequences of the Balkan War and related several of her own experiences in the troubled land last night at the College of Arts and Sciences.
Broz told of the effects of ethnic cleansing in Serbia and of heroic measures some communities in Bosnia took in order to maintain hope for the construction of a prosperous and conflict-free nation.
Broz explained that ethnic cleansing of Muslims during the war was a deliberate measure and its consequences resulted in horrific conditions for Bosnians.
“Ethnic cleansing was the objective of these wars, not a consequence,” Broz said. “Two hundred-fifty-thousand people were killed in concentration camps, exposed to the most obscene torture, rape and violence, and 3 million people were displaced.”
Broz also described the almost complete destruction of Bosnia and surrounding areas during the war.
“The consequences were more than catastrophic,” she said. “Housing, cultural and historical buildings were destroyed, and Bosnia has not been able to function for six years.”
Broz said the transition attempted after the war in former Yugoslavia has failed due to the lack of arrests of war criminals, present ethnic tensions and lack of nationality, and that Yugoslavia’s people are dealing with feelings of guilt and vengeance.
“People now must face up to the truth of what happened during the wars,” Broz said. “Those who committed crimes have not been arrested, and people must face up to a strange cloud of guilt.”
Broz said Bosnia’s economy suffered as well, and crime and unemployment are currently prevalent due to a corrupt education system that has led to a surge in illiteracy.
“Some children cannot pass exams unless they grease the palm of the person giving the test,” said Broz. “There is a surge in illiterate children who resort to begging or prostitution in order to feed their unemployed parents.”
The ethnic tensions have not been resolved either, Broz said.
“There is now ridiculous insistence on differences in ethnic groups,” she said. “Teachers have raised five- to six-foot wire fences in the middle of playgrounds so there can be no physical contact between groups.”
The fact that so many problems still exist in Bosnia, even after the extensive support measures taken by other countries, raises a new problem, according to Broz. She said the international community failed to recognize the nature of the conflict, and if she had not heard stories of hope and peace or witnessed isolated incidents of bravery within Bosnia, she would have no hope for the country.
Broz described positive signs for the future of the region, describing two villages that overcame ethnic differences to reconstruct their communities. She said a garden is currently being constructed in Sarejevo in honor of the brave people who were able to transcend and endure the conditions of war. The stories appear in her new book, “Good People in Evil Times.”
Walter Jackson, a representative of the Institute for the Study of Conflict, Ideology and Policy at Boston University, said Broz was asked to speak in order to educate and enlighten students about the conflict in Yugoslavia.
“We brought her to give students the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge on what is going on today, and to give them a little bit of insight into the potential for good and hope,” Jackson said.
Samuel Butler, a CAS junior, said he was glad he had attended because of the positive message that was expressed.
“The excerpts that were read from Dr. Broz’s book really focused on the positive aspects during a time of war,” Butler said. “It was a poignant and moving thing to see.”
CAS junior Jared McCormick agreed Broz was an effective speaker and said he learned a lot from her talk.
“It was really informative, with a lot of examples that made the situation easier to understand,” McCormick said. “She is one of the most well-known speakers on the history and region.”