Related topics

To Stay or To Go: Dilemma Muslims Have to Face

February 3, 1996

NEZUK, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ For almost four years, Muslims in this village in northeastern Bosnian fought to keep rebel Serbs out. On Saturday, their settlement passed peacefully into Bosnian Serb hands.

The transfer of control took place under the auspices of the Dayton peace accord, which also provided for Serb-held suburbs in Sarajevo to pass Saturday into the hands of the Muslim-led government.

The 1,000 or so residents of this all-Muslim village now face a choice: to live under Bosnian Serb rule or leave.

``This is the hardest moment for me ever,″ said Hasan Amidzovic, 74, leaning on his wooden cane. ``We cannot leave, yet we cannot live with them.″

``What are we to do?″ Adem Salihovic, a 43-year-old Bosnian soldier asked, smoking furiously. ``Who I fight with, I don’t drink with and I cannot live with.″

Anger and anxiety boiled as almost the entire town gathered to debate their dilemma at a central crossing in Nezuk, 20 miles northeast of Tuzla, where the U.S. troops in Bosnia are based. As part of the transfer, the Bosnian government took away their weapons, increasing their anxiety.

The dilemma is much the same for thousands of other Bosnians _ Muslim, Serb and Croat alike _ who under the U.S.-brokered peace accord must submit to rule by the enemy they have been fighting since 1992.

The deal leaves 51 percent of Bosnia under control of the Muslim-Croat federation, and 49 percent _ including Nezuk _ under Bosnian Serb control.

By sundown Saturday, Bosnian Serb authorities had made no effort to assert control over Nezuk. Under the accord, areas to be exchanged formally change political control, but all military must stay out until mid-March.

But Serb trenches are clearly visible 500 yards from the village, just 12 1/2 miles west of the pre-war border with Serbia proper.

Every house in Nezuk bears evidence of the frontline fighting, pocked with bullet holes. Most are scarred with multiple direct artillery hits.

Almost every family lost a member to shelling or sniping. Saban Mujkic lost his 20-year-old son Sead in one of many Serb offensives. His wife, two daughters and younger son live in the remains of their shell-shattered house.

``We cannot and will not live with the Serbs,″ said Mejra Mujcinovic, 45. ``They have tried for years to kill us, what will stop them from killing us now?″

But others said they would not leave _ even if, as Saban Mujkic suggested, they had to fight with axes as they did in 1992.

``Where would I go?″ said Mujkic, 58. ``I have to stay. If nothing else, my cow will feed my family.″

His house, he added, ``doesn’t look great, but it is mine and all I have. It’s misery, but it’s my misery.″

Update hourly