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The Siege of Sarajevo – an Unlearned Lesson for Humanity

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Elie Wiesel asks whether humanity has learned from its experiences, and examines our involvement in catastrophes around the world. He discusses mankind’s abject failures and lauds its successes. Among those failures, he might include the Siege of Sarajevo. That crisis is evidence that we have learned nothing from our appalling experiences of the 20th century. The Siege of Sarajevo was a destructive conflict that took place from the early 1990s till the mid-1990s. The siege was caused by Bosnia-Herzegovina declaring their independence from the former Yugoslav federation. The Serbs who lived in this distinct area feared the idea that they were going to be controlled by the Muslim Slavs who formed the majority of the population, which was 44 percent of the population.

The Serbs soon armed themselves and began to fight back the Muslims. Majority of the towns in Bosnia-Herzegovina demolished, except for Sarajevo. On April 6, 1992, Serb militants injured 30, and killed at least 5 civilians, by opening fire at the thousands of peace demonstrators in Sarajevo. This began a siege that has been called “The worst in Europe since the end of World War II”. Roads leading in and out of Sarajevo were blocked, the airport was shut down and approximately 400, 000 residents were trapped in the siege. They were cut off from important supplies, like food, medicine, water and electricity. The residents got very close to complete starvation, and their only prospect for survival was the success of UN airlifts from the Sarajevo airport that was opened in late June of 1992. During a short period of time, every building was either damaged or destroyed, and no civilian was gonna be safe from the attacks. On June 1, 1993, mortar attacks during a soccer game, at least killed 15 people and 80 more were injured. Red Cross trucks were given permission to enter Sarajevo, but they were attacked and destroyed. On July 12, 1993, 12 people were killed while in line for water, and on the following year on February 5th, 68 were killed, and 200 others were injured in the Sarajevo marketplace, by mortar attacks. By the end of 1993, Bosnian-Serbs ruled 75 percent of the country, and offenses were committed, ranging from execution, being tortured, raped and murdered at the hands of Serbian forces.

On May 1, Sarajevo was once again rocked by mortars and the Serbs raided a UN-monitored weapons collection site. This made hostilities so much worse, that NATO jets attacked Serb ammunition depots on May 25th of that same year. Bosnian government declared that the siege of Sarajevo was over, on February 29, 1996. But there were still scars left on this once proud city that was an intellectual center noted for its multi-cultural tolerance. The population went from 650, 000 before the war to 220, 000. And now the population is restoring, currently at 555, 210.

The crisis of the Siege of Sarajevo is evidence that we have learned nothing from our experiences of the 20th century. There are countries right now, that try to declare independence or something that will benefit them, but cannot achieve it without some sort of conflict or argument. We will never learn from our experiences because one way or another, we will make mistakes that affect our surroundings.

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