Monday, March 1, 2021, marks twenty-nine (29) years of Independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The Congress of Bosniaks of North America wishes a Happy Independence Day to all citizens and friends of Bosnia and Herzegovina both at home and abroad!
As the “iron curtain” and the Berlin Wall in Europe were falling in the late 1980s, ethnic groups in the former Yugoslavia started to build their own walls and curtains. Unhappy with the constitutional reforms that would significantly strengthen the powers of the capital of the former Yugoslavia – i.e., Belgrade (which is also the capital of Serbia) – first Slovenia, and then Croatia declared independence in 1991 from the former Yugoslavia. It was not until the Republic of Macedonia declared its intention to leave the Yugoslav union, that Bosnia and Herzegovina followed suit and organized a referendum regarding its independence on March 1, 1992.
The results of the referendum showed that approximately 2/3rds of the population that participated in the referendum voted in favor of the independence of BiH. However, following the referendum, some Bosnian Serb representatives left the institutions of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and established the Republic of Srpska within the internationally recognized sovereign territory of the BiH. Mr. Radovan Karadzic, who was subsequently convicted for committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), became the president of the Republic of Srpska. The Republic of Srpska also organized the Bosnian Serb army and appointed Mr. Ratko Mladic as the general of the Bosnian Serb army. Mr. Mladic was also convicted for same crimes as Mr. Karadzic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). To this day, the institutions of the Republic of Srpska celebrate, promote and glorify both of these individuals and boycott the internationally recognized Independence Day of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Every year, on March 1st., we celebrate Bosnia and Herzegovina’s independence. We remember those who shed their blood and lost their lives during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also recognize the thousands of lives shattered and forever changed in the aftermath of the aggression.
For centuries, Bosnia and Herzegovina was the only region in Europe where Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholics, Jews and many other religious and diverse ethnic groups lived together and shared their history and culture in tolerance. We firmly believe that the idea of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious BiH is not only compatible with the basic, fundamental ideals of a “new” Europe, but also that membership in NATO and accession to the European Union are the only viable solutions toward a democratic and stable sovereign Bosnian and Herzegovinian state. As such, we remain hopeful that that those who catalyzed the fall of the “iron curtain” and the Berlin Wall will have the same strength, courage and desire to help destroy the remaining “walls” and “curtains” of ethnic strife in Bosnia and Herzegovina.