For One American, Traveling in Bosnia is Harsh Lesson
May. 28, 1996
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Nancy Ost came to Bosnia to spread a message of peace. Then she saw the hate in the eyes of Bosnian Serbs who stoned her.
``I have learned how incredibly naive I am about this situation, living in America,'' Ost said Tuesday, two days after getting hit in the head by a rock as she huddled on the floor of her peace group's tour bus.
The rock left a lump without breaking the skin. For Ost, it also showed how hard it will be to wipe out deep-rooted hatreds from the 3 1/2-year war in Bosnia.
NATO forces and Western powers trying to implement Bosnia's peace agreement face major obstacles, particularly ensuring free movement in the former war zone.
In the case of Ost and 43 colleagues from ``Through Heart to Peace,'' an international women's peace group, their bus trip from Muslim territory through Serb territory in northwest Bosnia evoked violent opposition.
``I just began to get a slight feeling of the intensity of what this war has been like for these people,'' said Ost, 51, of Albany, N.Y. ``Here I was feeling this intense fear for a brief moment in time, and they had gone through years of feeling this fear.''
Bosnian Serbs have repelled several attempts by Muslims to return to now-ransacked villages near Prijedor, in the region where the most notorious Serb concentration camps were located. The ``Through Heart to Peace'' group tried three times over the weekend to move through Prijedor but never made it.
The last time, on Sunday afternoon, about 250 Serbs blocked the bus and threw stones to turn it back, despite the NATO tanks that accompanied it. NATO policy is to avoid confrontation with unarmed civilians.
``It revealed a lot of what's already there,'' said Jane Glitre, a British member of the group. ``If we'd gone through easily, it would have been a kind of joke ... because nobody else can go through easily.''
Police and local officials in Prijedor aroused the mob with radio warnings that a bus filled with Muslims was coming, NATO spokesmen said. Glitre accused the Bosnian Serbs of using propaganda to incite the crowd.
``They knew exactly who we were,'' she said.
The Bosnian Serb police chief of Prijedor, Simo Drljaca, was quoted on Belgrade's independent B-92 radio Tuesday as saying that Muslim visits to Prijedor would not be a problem so long as Serbs from nearby Sanksi Most _ which is in Muslim-Croat hands _ also were free to return. He suggested they were not.
Meanwhile, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday that Bosnian Serbs in central Bosnia are still expelling Muslims from the Teslic area. Between 50 and 100 Muslims have been forced to flee in recent weeks, said Monique Teffelli of the agency's office in the central Bosnian town of Zenica.
All parties in the war seem to be preventing the others from the freedom of movement called for in the Dayton peace accord.
Some 200 Muslims expelled from Stolac in southeast Bosnia during the war blocked a road for a few hours Tuesday to demand help in visiting their village, now controlled by Bosnian Croats. About 500 Muslims visited Stolac under tight supervision this weekend in the first trips by former residents.
Also Tuesday, a U.N. spokesman reported that a Bosnian Croat policeman shot and critically wounded a Muslim man Saturday on a road in central Bosnia. After stopping the man's car and looking at his registration, the policeman opened fire with an assault rifle as the man drove away, spokesman Alexander Ivanko said.