photographs and text by
Text in the orginal language: German
The combination of the literal words Blood+Honey in Turkish means Balkans.
The Balkans have always been a region of borders and wars, the “Backyard” and the “Problem Child” of Europe. The war in BiH (Bosnia – Herzegovina) from 1992 until 1995 took a great toll on human life and infrastructure. In 1998, the administration of the BiH Federation counted 242,330 deaths, 36,470 missing and 175,286 wounded.
More than 12,000 corpses have been exhumed from around 250 mass-graves in BiH after the end of the war. The total number of refugees is 2,200,000.
The financial damages have been estimated by the World Bank to lie between 15 to 20 billion dollars.
Countless cultural artifacts, such as the old bridge of Mostar, the Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka and the National Library in Sarajevo were either completely destroyed or badly damaged.
The consequences of the war are, however, much more extensive than the damage that can be observed. In the long term, the ideology of war from ethnic and spatial perspectives is the costliest mortgage that future generations will have to bear. Near the city of Tuzla, in the heart of Bosnia, around 100 refugee camps can be found today. One of these camps is Grab Potok. It was possible to visit Grab Potog for four weeks in November 2004 via the support of the Non-Governmental Organization Snaga Zéne.
Around 100 people live in Grab Potog, split into two wooden barracks. The refugees have been living here since the middle of 1995, and originally come from the region around Srebrenica. In the past they were all self-sufficient and hard-working farmers, today they depend on food donations. Every family lives in a room about 15 square meters large, which serves as kitchen, living room and bedroom. Rain comes through the ceiling, which causes mold and cold air seeps into the rooms because of drafty windows.
The shared toilets have standing water.
The camp is isolated from Bosnian society, because it is in the middle of the forest and between the mountains. The rest of the population is far away, which makes the social behavior of these people somewhat disturbed. Their relations to each other are unclear and there are always conflicts. A great degree of violent potential and the consumption of drugs influence everyday life. Frustration about their living situation and poverty is very high, which are compounded by lived traumas that lie just under the surface and from time to time even become visible. There are many children in Grab Potok, who don’t know where they came from – for them the camp is their home. They have behavioral problems and are disturbed, since they only live in this social environment.
The necessity for this and many other such camps was brought about by the “Massacre of Srebrenica”. In July of 1995, Serbian soldiers went through Srebrenica, suburb of Potocare and neighboring Bratonac, stormed the houses and captured all of the men between the ages of 16 and 60. They marched their captives to nearby forests and executed them.
It was the most tragic mass-murder in Europe since 1945. Ten years after the end of the war Srebrenica is virtually a ghost town.
In earlier times it was a place for relaxation and escape because of the healing springs and beautiful forests. Very few people returned to Srebrenica; only old women live in Potocare, women who lost their husbands in the massacre of 1995. If they look out their windows, they see the monument to the massacred victims and the attached cemetery – where the identified victims have been put to rest. Across from the monument, on the other side of the only street that leads to Srebrenica, is the “Factory”, which was used as a concentration camp during the Serbian occupation. Almost every month new graves are dug, because there are many executed people not yet identified.
The International Commission for Missing People (ICMP), continuously receive new white body bags. Currently 3000 of these bags can be found at the Corpse Halls of ICMP Tuzla, together with gathered bones from the mass graves in the forests.
It takes a long time for a person to be identified. First a small part of a bone is cleaned, and then a sample is taken. The sample is sent to the USA, where the DNA is analyzed and entered into a computer. This data is then manually compared to data from surviving family members, in order to determine exactly if the DNA is from a brother, father or husband. Across the world there are workgroups on assignment from the ICMP with the task of taking blood samples from survivors who have reported a missing family member. To date only 1880 corpses have been identified.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina the status-quo is standstill and social development is advancing at snail’s pace. And even though the tragic events are not that far behind us, hate is being promoted by nationalistic political parties and the return of the refugees to their hometowns is still not acceptable to the people currently living there. A heavy burden rests on the shoulders of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and it is being passed from generation to generation.
— Nathalie Mohadjer
You can also view the photographs in a larger format as a self-running slide show.