Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Sarajevo Daily" by Tom Gjelten [11]

Chapter 9: The Wounded City
By 1993, the more than the physical infrastructure of Sarajevo was damaged. The fragile, multicultural unity of the city was also deeply wounded. For that matter, so was the will and the morale of thousands of Sarajevo residents, including the staff of Oslobodjenje. The continuation of the war and the validation of ethnic division by the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan had the effect of strengthening Muslim nationalism, which could   only further undermine what remained of Sarajevo's prewar cosmopolitanism.

Izetbegovic refused to support the plan but felt that he needed to present it; because it was for a Muslim state he called a special Muslim-only assembly to vote on the measure before it was passed on to the National Assembly. The forces of Muslim nationalism seemed to be on the rise; Mustafa Ceric became outspokenly so. In the meantime, the staff of the paper kept a low profile and focused on the goal of surviving to the newspapers' 50th anniversary.

Ultimately, the measure was defeated--even among the Muslim majority, believers in inclusive secularism still held the upper hand. Oslobodjenje managed to publish a special 50th anniversary edition. And while the staff bickered more and more, and disagreements increased in frequency, they never broke down along ethnic lines. A new government formed in the wake of the defeat of Muslim nationalism, and it quickly cracked down on the gangsters who used their position in the military to exploit the population, leading to an outpouring of public support and overt expressions of approval from the paper.

But while these were welcome developments, things were not good. The paper still struggled. Kurspahic moved himself and his family to New York City to raise funds for the paper, leaving some staff angry and an overwhelmed Gordana Knezevic in charge. Electricity became harder and harder to come by. A promised Sarajevo film festival was completely undermined by United Nations refusal to cooperate and Serb shelling. Residents found themselves wearying of the everyday struggle to meet basic needs while avoiding death.

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