Why was their ethnic cleansing in Bosnia?
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The municipality of Zvornik, consisting of the town of Zvornik and a few dozen villages, had 81,111 inhabitants according to the 1991 census, including 48,208 Bosniaks (59.4%) and 30,839 Serbs (38%). 14,660 people lived in the area of the city of Zvornik, of whom 8,942 were Bosniaks (61.0%) and 4,281 Serbs (29.2%). 923 people described themselves as "Yugoslavs" (6.3%) and 440 as "others" (3.0%). Most of the villages were dominated by one ethnic group.
Zvornik, only separated from Serbia by the Drina River, held an important strategic position, as control of the city meant control of the Belgrade - Tuzla and Belgrade - Sarajevo corridors.
In Zvornik there was no garrison of the Yugoslav People's Army JVA; However, before the war began, the prison's tank, artillery and anti-aircraft units were stationed around Zvornik: Troops who had to leave Croatia after the armistice were stationed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in and around Zvornik.
In the months before the war, tensions between Bosniaks and Serbs began to build up, but there were also joint demonstrations by members of both ethnic groups for peaceful coexistence.
At the April 8, 1992 the war began in Zvornik with heavy shell bombardment of the city from the positions of the JVA around Zvornik, which lasted until the morning of April 9th. Then Serbian paramilitary units occupied the city. The “Temporary Government” of the “Serbian Community of Zvornik” took over civil power in the city.
Many Bosniaks had fled the community. The remaining Bosniak men always had to expect arbitrary arrest and attacks. After a while, the Serbian leadership called on the refugees through the media to return, as the situation had calmed down and no one had anything to fear. In addition, everyone has to register their property, otherwise it would fall to the municipality. In fact, especially from the end of April 1992, thousands of refugees followed this call and returned.
However, this recall only served to prepare for the final and organized expulsion of all non-Serbs from Zvornik. From around May 10th, the terror against the civilian population began again, there were acts of violence and many men were held, tortured and murdered in illegal camps.
If Bosniaks wanted to leave the city, they had to transfer their property to the “Serbian Community of Zvornik”, because this was the only way to get a permit. The reprisals and acts of violence showed "success" and on some days from the end of May to the end of June the Bosniak population was deported from entire districts or villages in the area. A large number of the displaced were taken by bus to Serbia and from there to Subotica on the Serbian-Hungarian border. From there they were deported by trains to Western Europe, especially to Austria.
At the end of June 1992, after three months, most of the Zvornik community was under Serbian control and only a few Bosniaks were able to stay. Tens of thousands had been displaced and over 4,000 people from Zvornik were either murdered or missing in the war. Serbs who had been expelled from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were already settled in Zvornik during the war. Only a few villages in the western municipality, which founded the municipality of Sapna after the war, remained under the control of the Bosniaks.
Today around 65,000 people, mostly Serbs, live in the municipality of Zvornik and, according to estimates, around 14,000 people, almost exclusively Bosniaks, in the municipality of Sapna.
The actions of the military and those responsible for the “ethnic cleansing” in Zvornik have been extensively documented and the persons responsible for the crimes are known. In Serbia, several Serbs were sentenced to several years in prison for their involvement in war crimes in Zvornik. The crimes in Zvornik also play an important role in indictments by the International Court of Justice for the former Yugoslavia against prominent former politicians and in convictions, because the example of Zvornik shows that the "ethnic cleansing" on the part of the political and military leadership of Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs were planned and targeted. (Charges against, among others, the former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the former President of the Serbian Republic Radovan Karadzic and the Serbian politician and militant Vojislav Seselj - convictions of the two Bosnian-Serbian politicians Momcilo Krajsnik and Biljana Plavsic, among others).
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