Tuesday, January 26, 2016

SAIS Europe Students Share their Personal Experiences Visiting Sarajevo

Every year the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD) hosts an annual study trip to Sarajevo in Bosnia & Herzegovina for students of SAIS and the University of Bologna. The CCSDD is a research partnership between the School of Law of the University of Bologna and the Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna, Italy (SAIS Europe). This year, students visited governmental organizations and NGOs in Sarajevo, whose aims are to support Bosnian citizens in the development and reconstruction of BiH, following the War of 1992-1995. They also visited the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial and Cemetery, for the victims of the 1995 genocide. Below two first year MA SAIS Europe students, Fabio Iannuzzelli and Fatima Hewaidi, share their personal stories as students on the trip.

SAIS Europe Students in Sarajevo
 “You know? Bal-Kan, honey and blood? That’s how they have called our land. We, the Balkans people, are known to be fighters, but we are also very kind. I am so happy you have decided to visit my country and I am sure you will love it.”  
These words were uttered by Imana, a 21 year old Bosnian girl. Her eyes were shining while she enthusiastically told me about her country, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The plane was about to land in a snowy Sarajevo. That is when I realized my SAIS study trip had officially started.
Imana was born in Sarajevo in 1995, a few kilometers away from Srebrenica, where, in that same year, one of the darkest pages in human history was written. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed during the Srebrenica genocide. Yet, today, according to my seatmate on the flight, young people want to move beyond the past and are determined to coexist peacefully.
Photo from the History Museum of Bosnia & Herzegovina

A few hours after that fortunate encounter, while walking around the Jewish cemetery in Sarajevo, I met General Divjak, the former Bosnian Serb Deputy Commander of the Bosnian Army during the Bosnian War (1992 – 1995), considered today a national hero. General Divjak was leading my fellow study trip mates and me through an insightful tour of Sarajevo. I had just a question for him: “Mr. General, what’s your vision, your intuition, regarding the future of BiH?” He looked at me and said: “Oh, well. BiH ’s future will depend on BiH . Moreover, as I told you on the bus, it seems that young Bosnians, who were not even born during the War, are experiencing a new resurgence of hatred. This can’t happen anymore.”
These were two different perspectives: the hope and determination of the young Imana on one side, the wisdom and cautiousness of the General on the other. In between the two exists the absurdity of a tremendous hatred among ethnicities that needs to be overcome for good. The Mothers of Srebrenica, an association of women who lost family members during the Bosnian War, knows such hatred very well. Yet, these women have learned the arduous road to forgiveness but have not forgotten. While they were sharing with us their life stories and thoughts in a little recreational center in Srebrenica, I could not remain silent. They deserved a deep and sincere “Thank You”.
As we pursue our graduate studies at SAIS, it is easy to dream about becoming one day, accomplished diplomats, respected scholars, or brilliant politicians. What is more challenging is to fulfill such dreams honorably, with the daily responsibility that these roles bear, never falling short of the commitment to a global vision. History has much to teach us with this regard. The SAIS Europe Sarajevo Study Trip organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development was a further occasion to learn and to consolidate such life lessons.
Heartbreaking. Intense. Inspiring.
Fabio Iannuzzelli, (Italian)
1st Year MA Student, SAIS Europe
Concentration:  International Law

EUSR/EU Delegation in Sarajevo

Our study trip to Sarajevo with the Center for Constitutional Studies and Democratic Development (CCSDD) has invaluably widened my perspectives with regards to the post-conflict development process in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH).  During our trip, we were fortunate to engage in meetings with a range of organizations – an experience which allowed me to soak in diverse outlooks on the deeply fragile social, political, and economic condition of the country (twenty years following the brutal war in which hundreds of thousands were killed and over half of the population was displaced).
From our meetings with ambassadors and representatives at the OSCE, World Bank, UNHCR, Al Jazeera, EU Special Representative in BiH, the Constitutional Court of BiH, and the Italian Embassy, I began to grasp the delicate approach with which each organization served its purpose, given the unique and sensitive adherence that must be given to the ethnic and demographic make-up of the country. Whether we were listening to an expert speak on BiH’s highly-coveted accession to the EU, or the creation of guidelines on how to write history books in national education curricula following the war, or defense and labour market reforms, or transitional justice and the fight against corruption, it became clear to me that the ramifications of the war of 1992-1995 were a fundamental source of influence in decision making, amidst the country’s policy makers and strategic actors. Most importantly, it became even clearer how the traumatic events of the war are still fresh in the memories and daily lives of the country’s population, if not evident by the bullet holes and memorials that still mark many of Sarajevo’s buildings and neighborhoods).

Remnants of the War are still visible

We began our trip with a tour of the city by the gracious and passionate General Jovan Divjak, an ethnic Serb (and self-identified Bosnian) former army officer who believes vigorously today that youth empowerment and education are the country’s best bet to move forward.  We concluded our study trip by spending a day in Srebrenica (a small mountain town which was the site of the genocidal killing of the Muslim population in 1995). We met with the impressive women of "Snaga ┼żene", an organization which offers psychological, social, medical and legal support to women and children who had suffered traumatic experiences during and after the war. We listened to survival stories, asked difficult questions and – at times – shed tears, and grew deeply inspired by the resilience of the human spirit and the power of perseverance of the healing process in the aftermath of a life-altering conflict.
As a Libyan native, whose home and family in Benghazi are experiencing the hardships and violence of a deteriorating state on a daily basis, this trip especially allowed me to appreciate the pertinence – and fragility – of the notion of identity in shaping national consciousness in a time of conflict or post-conflict transition. All in all, our study trip to Sarajevo has been an exceptional way for me to bid farewell to my first semester at SAIS Europe, and commence my next semester with an enriched perspective. I embrace my second semester with a  longing to learn more, and a determination to continue applying what I am taught in the classroom at SAIS to field experiences around the world.
Fatima Hewaidi (Libyan/Canadian)
 1st Year MA student, SAIS Europe
Concentration: Energy, Resources and Environment

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