Why Bosnians Wear Armbands on May 31

The man in the photo is Emir Hodzic. He is standing alone in Prijedor town square because his brother and father were inmates of the Omarska concentration camp near the city in north-western Bosnia and Herzegovina during the civil war in 1992. The white body bag in front of him symbolizes the crimes committed against women in Prijedor. There was supposed to be an installation with 266 white body bags and red roses representing 266 women and girls killed in 1992.

However, Prijedor’s mayor, Marko Pavic, prohibited the commemoration of the killings in the town during the war. Pavic did not allow the installation to take place, saying that any marking of the 20th anniversary of genocide in Prijedor would ‘harm the city’s reputation’. So Emir Hodzic took it upon himself to stand alone on the town square with a white stripe on his arm. This was on May 23 2012.

Why the white band around his arm? On the last day of May in 1992, after a forceful takeover of the municipal government, Bosnian Serb authorities issued a decree on local radio ordering all non-Serbian citizens to mark their houses with white flags or bedsheets and to wear white armbands when leaving the house.

Tens of thousands of family members of those forced to wear white armbands had been detained in some of the most notorious camps established during the war in Bosnia — Omarska, Keraterm, Manjaca and Trnopolje.

Today, just as Emir did alone in 2012, thousands of Bosnians and Herzegovinians commemorate this day by wearing a white armband.

Excerpts from Al Jazeera article on the commemoration, and storytelling by Sumeja Tulic on Facebook.
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About The Author

Nasri Atallah

Nasri Atallah

Nasri Atallah is a British-Lebanese author and media entrepreneur. He has published a best-selling collection of short stories and his writing has appeared in GQ, The Guardian, Brownbook, Time Out and The Outpost. He is the founder of Gate37, a cross-cultural music incubator (playing a hybrid label, A&R, booker, management role). He is also a partner at Keeward, a digital agency focussing on culture, media and technology and partnerships consultant at knowledge-sharing and social commerce platform Bookwitty. All of his work - both creative and entrepreneurial - focuses on multiculturalism, pop culture, the media industry and social justice.

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