“MAN IS A WOLF TO HIS FELLOW-MAN” the great philosopher Voltaire said, and I did not believe him until SREBRENICA happened.
Fortunately, I managed to flee at the right time. In doing so, I escaped the destiny of eight thousand, brutally killed, innocent residents of Srebrenica. I found myself in exile in a far away country, in the land of Vikings; far in the north, I was safe. But…inside me, an inferno. I am burning. My homeland is bleeding, and I was here, a runaway. The guilty conscience. I am thinking how to help. I am finding the solution. I start, for the first time in my life to draw caricatures. I want the world, that is (un)willingly distorting the perception of the war in BiH, to get to know the real truth, to
prevent the bloodshed and to help the victims. I drew my first illustration/caricature in the Refugee Center in Hemsdal, Norway in 1993 and then continued through the next decade, “freezing” the BiH war reflection reality with a string of caricatures that focused on Srebrenica’s tragedy, war criminals, justice, truth and the influence of the international community on BiH. The drawings were generated by and were timed to follow the extreme events in BiH and this book, actually, are a retrospective review of my works created in the period 1993-2006. Positive reviews received from both the BiH and Scandinavian public, who had a chance to see my caricatures at solo exhibitions (Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Oslo, Stockholm…) strongly motivated me to want to publish this book. Many believe that my caricatures represent an important contribution to keeping the memory of the Srebrenica (BiH) tragedy alive and that, indeed, was my goal. To us who survived, I want this book to be a constant reminder of the greatest Bosniaks’ tragedy in their history, and to our children, a road sign in creating a better tomorrow. Do not let us allow the ray of light on the dawn of Bosniaks’ or anybody else’s future to get dark. I would like to express my special appreciation to Mr. Dzevad Tasic, Editor-in-chief, “Bosnian Post”, the most popular newspaper amongst Bosnians in Scandinavia, for recognizing the significance of messages expressed through my caricatures, and for publishing them over all these years and in order in which they were created. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to editors of “Oslobodjenje”, especially to Mr. Borivoje Simic, who published my caricatures on the anniversaries of the Srebrenica Massacre. I also express my deep appreciation to much respected critics, translator and to those who helped me to publish this book. I am very grateful to the Kingdom of Norway for accepting my family and myself during the times of evil, and by doing so made it possible for me to continue with my work. I am thankful to the so-called International community for saving from starvation those compatriots of mine who, accidentally, escaped the slaughter and for stopping the war in my homeland; but, I will never forgive the International community for not doing anything to prevent the war, but, instead, it was passively watching the liquidation of over eight thousand innocent people from Srebrenica, amongst who were my brother, his son and the son of my sister. That is why the title of this book is “UNDER THE UN PROTECTION”, and I dedicate it to all the innocent victims of the Srebrenica Massacre.
DARK IMAGES FOR DARK TIMES
Srebrenica will always be a ʼblack markʼ on the European conscience. Srebrenica is a symbol of betrayal; a betrayal by the international community, particularly the UN and the ”big powers”. Srebrenica was a so-called ”protected zone”, yet, it was not protected; nor were her killers punished. Testimonials about Srebrenicaʼs tragic destiny do exist. Survivors gave their testimonies, journalists wrote articles, historians wrote studies and investigators in The Haag concluded their investigations. However, we still need to be reminded; it must not be forgotten, and it must nothappen again. That is why Sukrija Meholjicʼs drawings are so important. They are testimonies of the dark times. Political caricature can tell more than the written word. Caricatures are born at the same time events are taking place, like the daily news. When they are of a high quality, be it artistic or political, they have a permanent value; just like testimonies. Sukrija Meholjicʼs drawings have just such a quality. His caricatures are not only first-class drawings; they have a political message as well. Through them we can follow the tragic events of the ʼ90’s, seen through the eyes of an intellectual who has his opinions, who wants to tell us his point of view, who has a message for the world. His caricatures are proof that the artistʼs pen can be as effective as a weapon. Sukrija Meholjicʼs caricatures remind us of the existence of those shameful and tragic events, the cynical politicians, the incompetent diplomats. The book is dark and the content is a permanent record of the dark times. Just knowing that this book exists, however, shows there is a ray of light, a trace of hope, that it will never happen again!
“Under the UN protection” by Sukrija Meholjic)
A successful caricature, even when done by a few strokes of the pen, is the result of a long intellectual process. The caricature is an instant philosophy, which requires a little bit of time, a little bit of the talent for drawing, a little bit of humour and a lot of knowledge about life and the world. Even Goya, the artist equally important as a caricaturist as well as a painter, established the caricature as a way of seeing and understanding man and his world. In his work, marked with a graphic mastery of deep shadowing that gave it an hallucinogenic note, Goya developed a method of focusing on the essence, reducing the background details and the conflict between verbal and pictorial as well as the conflict between the integral parts of the picture. Goya, like other great caricaturists: Hogarth, Daumier, Gavarni, Charlet, Grandville, Travies, Cruinkshank, Seymour, Pinelli, Elder and others, who were active during the 18th and the 19th century, (when caricature originated), defined comical elements and used them in his works to express the serious. Caricature, Goya teaches us, is not something ugly, it is satirical and its point is to teach us how to de-mask the ugliness hidden behind prose. Ugliness, like beauty, is a state of mind; therefore, the purpose of exposing the ugly is to bring us closer to the ideal of beauty. The same way aging and time turns youth and beauty into old and ugly and in so doing emphasizes the beauty of youth, the concept of immorality emphasizes the value of moral and human virtues. Unlike science and art, the essence of a successful caricature is not in revealing something new but in recognizing the known through a different expression that is new and unlike the conventional. Actually, caricature and humour are generally searching for a new, different “meaning,” not to change the existing, the known one, but to understand it. The fact, that caricature is not a copy of the reality but its purposeful interpretation, defines caricature permanently as public opinion. The direct consequence of that is that caricature, as a rule, is in the form of a satire when the message is interpretational or in the form of parody when its message is reflexive. The core essence of satire and parody, their “true colour”, is anti-authoritative political message and ironic distance. Traditionally, satire functions like an irreplaceable opportunity to raise the fist against political, cultural and social events that represent authority and those who are powerful. The authorities always try to make poverty, misery and justice appear invisible. Successful satirical caricature sets the hidden truth free and exposes it to the public; it is the mean of effectively de-masking the public deception. The fact, that caricature implies rebellion against authority and power, is the reason why it gives us a very precise and true picture of the society and time when it appears. Hogarthʼs satirical graphics have more “realism” and document their time better than any of the works of the “high-cultureʼ in England in the mid 18th century. Permanent skepticism regarding the political and public life and the practice of not letting the Dauthority rest, even in those societies that call themselves democratic, are the main ingredients necessary to label something a caricature. Word “caricaturist” rhymes with “humanist”. Almost without exception, the greatest caricaturists in history were “leftists”, promoting the principles of humanism and tolerance. The opposite is actually impossible, since the trade marks of the dictatorships: Nazism, chauvinism, racism and sexism cannot be a caricature nor humour, regardless of how much they resemble them. The need for satirical – and parody – like perception is present in modern societies that are characterized by “post-modern” fragmentation and atomism, when the main goal is not only to criticize authorities and power, but to recognize and locate them and to point to the abuse of the public trust, not only in politics but also in the media, sports and all the institutions that have influence on what we call modern life. Furthermore, caricature is one of the very few ways that are at modern manʼs disposal that enables him to see, with different eyes, the reality that is polluted and fogged by media. That is made possible by the very fundamental method of caricature as an expression, in any of its forms of analytical observation and the selection of the events important for human existence and presenting them by means of eliminating less important, therefore, recognizing and bringing to the surface the factors that are crucial for that existence and combining them in order to be able to criticize those events. Therefore, the phrase implying that the caricature is a distorted mirror, doesnʼt describe the art of caricature sufficiently. It is a mirror, but the mirror that reflects a picture in which all the unnecessary elements are filtered and the core elements are styled and arranged into a new structure quite different from the original one. Knowing all this helps us to understand the meaning of caricatures in this book. Responding to the same need that sees many Bosnians writing books nowadays, even those Bosnians that have no experience in writing, Sukrija Meholjic decided, not to write a book but to draw one, an impulse much closer to his main profession – architecture – a profession from which many good caricaturists emerge. The crime against Bosnia after the 1992-1995 genocide is being perpetuated today as a crime of silence. The horrible fact that the Serb forces killed the inhabitants of Srebrenica and that Srebrenica today, before the whole world, is a Serb territory, is ignored and is disappearing in the vacuum of the media fog. The creation of the entity formed on the territory, all of whose inhabitants were killed or expelled, and its laws of racism, are not discussed anywhere. The fact that in modern Europe, the whole nation, the Bosnians, are denied a right to their own land, to their right to freedom , and finally, to their right to life, does not appear in the powerful media. Meholjicʼs caricatures, mostly structured as easily-solved puzzles, are a welcome cry against the planetʼs injustice and obvious decision of the powerful in todayʼs world to sweep under the rug and erase from the history, the crimes committed against a European nation.
Midhat Ajanovic Ajan
Writer and Caricaturist
THE REVOLT OF THE SUFFERING
I had heard about Sukrija Meholjic long before I have actually met him. His Srebrenica was a part of my childhood and my youth. His Srebrenica was a great love of mine long before everything that happened between the spring of 1992 and the infamous 11 July, 1995. Ah, that day, the day that made Srebrenica a symbol of defending freedom, and a symbol of a tragedy that happened on this planet, in the heart of Europe, at the end of the 20th century. Even after that unforgettable day, when, in Srebrenica, there were no more natives, the Bosniaks, who used to be an integral part of the multi-millenium tradition of that city (building their lives on the traditions of their predecessors, interweaving with them in a long urban tradition of Srebrenica/Argentarija/Domavija) – even then, the destruction of the city of Srebrenica continued. Nobody, however, paid any attention to it. It was overshadowed by the loss of thousands of Bosniak lives. Not much is known about the destruction, even today. Not much is known about the fact that the genocide against the people of Srebrenica was continued as the genocide against the city itself. When there were no Bosniaks left, Serbs continued decimating Srebrenica itself. After shelling the city from Serbia with long-range artillery, and dropping bombs from aircraft, they continued with short-range artillery. After the Serbs occupied Srebrenica on 11 July, 1995, they proceeded to plant mines, as if it was not enough that they had damaged the city already (they even damaged the Orthodox church, on the hill, in the centre of the town). The occupying forces, at first, selected, on an individual basis, those buildings that would be destroyed. And so they proceeded to destroy a newly finished monumental mosque on the road to the Spa Guber. Literally, they destroyed the architecture of Srebrenica – even the buildings’ foundations were destroyed. And after that? They turned their wrath on the old market, which they obliterated, turning it into an empty shell. I was amongst the first ones who saw that photograph and had it published in ‘Ljiljan’. That happened long after the Dayton Peace was implemented. We suffered heavy losses – there were many deaths in our immediate families, our friends and neighbours. Those of us who were expelled from now dead Bosnian cities did not give ourselves permission to grieve the loss of material possessions. Then and now, the most painful thing is the loss of our dearest ones. That must have happened to Sukrija Meholjic as well. I can only imagine how it was for Sukrija Meholjic when he heard the news, and when he saw the pictures of Srebrenica – reduced to ashes. In fact, Sukrija Meholjic was Srebrenica’s main guardian, officially appointed to protect the oldest existing town in Bosnia, a town of immense beauty. Meholjic was Srebrenica’s main urbanist, its chief architect. Perhaps such a function existed in other cities, though the impact of such a contribution was likely greatest in Srebrenica. Although it seems unlikely for a small city in the heartland, in Communist times, I can swear that nobody’s name was mentioned with more respect than his. Nobody in Srebrenica had more authority. And without coercion, nobody enjoyed so much respect. He planned, deciding what would be built, and built it. Because of his efforts Srebrenica became what it was – a little house in the garden. Meholjic managed to acquire the authority, second to none, on his own terms and through his work only. I came to Srebrenica often, and it was impossible not to know who Sukrija Meholjic was, even though I had never met him. I repeat, I can only imagine how Sukrija Meholjic felt while his townsmen were being killed and his Srebrenica was being demolished again and again. Then, in the midst of all the killings, I noticed his caricatures depicting Srebrenica, that were published in the newspaper. Being from a town near Srebrenica myself, and being someone who has suffered a loss of the dearest in Srebrenica, I purposely do not use the word «caricature», this all is actually the revolt of the very wounded; with the signature of Sukrija Meholjic. To this day I still have not met him, although when I saw the caricatures, I knew, that must have been the Sukrija Meholjic about whom I knew so much even though I had not met him. Everything else is already mentioned in this book. I would like to complete this foreword, as I believe I have said everything that should be said about the book. I have nothing to add or take away from this book of caricatures. Although I think the layout could have been different (I am picky), I have changed my mind. A post script! Finally, I have met Sukrija Meholjic! It was in the autumn of 2006 in Oslo. He came from a town whose name I did not remember but I knew it was not close to Oslo. He came to the poetry reading in which I participated as well. He came to meet me. Meeting him was one of my fondest memories, on a journey to a far and cold, and yet very dear northern country. I met Sukrija. I was very surprised when I saw him, still looking very young. Although his youthful appearance did not fit my preconceived perception of him, it made me even more convinced that I was right to be proud of him. Although I think it is out of line to congratulate an author for publishing such a book, I also believe that, if congratulating has anything to do with being virtuous, ie, if the true meaning of that word was not lost in this war against Bosnia and Bosnians, than, I congratulate Sukrija Meholjic from the bottom of my heart. This foreword is one that took me the longest time to write. I have written many forewords and I have always tried to be fair. I took great pains in writing this one, as I wanted to be particulary fair when commenting on such an important topic. This is a unique book.
Novelist from Vlasenica
Sarajevo, 19 February 2007/1. saffera 1428.