Monday, June 24, 1996

Milorad Muratovic, after his return from Mostar

None of the Mass Return of Serb Refugees From Mostar to Their Hometown

Croatian side refused to talk with the representatives of Serbs in exile. The problem with Moslem side is that there are already 12,000 refugees there, not the animosity against Serbs, Muratovic said.

Belgrade, Tanjug. - Mostar is clearly divided among the Croats and Moslems, and the chances for the return of 40,000 Serbs, former denizens of the city, are unlikely noted yesterday the president of the Society for support of refugees and exiles in SR Yugoslavia, Dr. Milorad Muratovic, who just spent several days in the city. "The hatred between the Croats and Moslems has led to an effective division of the city, and a collective return of the exiled Serbs is impossible," says Muratovic, who spent five days in Mostar, along with a group of Serbs from exile, under the auspices of the Belgrade office of the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissary for Refugees].

The goal of this visit was to re-establish contacts between families, broken four years ago, to assess the chances of return or reimbursement of about 2,000 Serbs from Mostar who are currently in SR Yugoslavia, and to investigate the possibility of refugees voting in the upcoming elections in Mostar. The representatives of refugees, among whom was the former mayor of Mostar and MP in SFR Yugoslavia Radmilo Andric, visited only the Moslem side of the town. They met with the representatives of EU and Moslem government. Croats refused to take part in the talks, and denied access to the representatives into their part of the city, on the right bank of Neretva. Croat mayor Miso Brajkovic arrived last day, but only for talks in private. "Croatian press wrote pretenciously before we came, accusing us of being 'commies' who would like to rebuild old Mostar," Muratovic added. In the talks with Peres Casado, the refugees emphasized that the Serbs have not left voluntarily, as the Croats and Moslems would have it. In that respect, the representatives asked of Casado that Serbs be not discriminated against in the upcoming elections. Unfortunately, the plea of the delegation - to include Belgrade and Podgorica as voting outposts for June 30th elections in Mostar - was denied. Casado stated that "it is good to meddle in this and be at the site, because EU is glad to see the Serbs in Mostar." Currently, there are four Serbs on the list of independent candidates, but with no one to vote for them.

As for the request of about 2,000 Serbs to be reimbursed for the real estate they lost, the EU representatives promised to speedily tend to those matters, because until now they were preoccupied with Moslem-Croat relationship, "and so the Serbs were left out." "The problem with the Moslem part of the town is that they already have 12,000 refugees, not some grudge they hold against the return of Serbs," explains Muratovic. These 12,000 Moslems were evicted by Croats from the right bank, and are now in the homes of Serbs in exile, which poses obvious problem of accommodation. Another group of refugees, exiled from Capljina, Stolac, and Podvelezje, are inhabiting once Serb-populated areas of Buna, Blagaj, Bijelo Polje, Vrapcici, Malo Polje, Pijesci, and Gubavica.

About 70% of the Orthodox Cemetery has been turned to ruins, while the tombs of prominent Serbs are desecrated. Once the most beautiful orthodox church in the Balkans was completely turned to rubble, while of another, smaller and older one, only the outer walls remained. "Family tomb of Corovics is damaged, not from explosions but from human act. Monument to Aleksa Santic is damaged, too, and the fence is torn down," Muratovic says. Surrounding suburbs are in the state of dilapidation, with the goats wandering empty alleys. Famous Herzegovinian vineyards are destroyed.

Moslem mayor Safet Orucevic, and the populace of the eastern part of the town received the representatives nicely. "They asked about the situation in Yugoslavia, and could not believe that refugees live freely here. They are convinced that Moslems and Croats are being harassed and fired from work here," Muratovic concluded. Haris Silajdzic and Mirko Pejanovic arrived in Mostar while the representatives were there, hoping to schedule talks with them. However, the delegation declined this offer, wishing to avoid any political connotations to their visit, Muratovic said.

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