CNN Balkan Conflict News

Bosnian refugees have houses but no homes

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December 15, 1995
Web posted at: 12:00 p.m. EST (1700 GMT)

From International Correspondent Richard Blystone

TUZLA Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- The Balkan peace treaty signed Thursday in Paris calls for the safe return of refugees to their homes. But as some of those displaced by war are learning, it will take more than a treaty to bring them home.

"You have to live somewhere, but I don't think I'll ever love this place," says Shehida Mulalic, a Muslim refugee living in Tuzla.

Mulalic, whose first name means "war widow," has not seen her husband since summer. He is missing. She and her seven children share a single room.

In Tuzla, Muslims who fled the Serb slaughter of Srebrenica in July have settled in homes that once belonged to Bosnian Serbs. The Bosnian Serbs fled the Bosnian Army this fall.

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It's hard to get people to focus on the future; the past is so very much with them.

"People who haven't experienced our betrayal and suffering can never understand," says Fadil Ahmetovic, who distributes government handouts of flour, jam, oil, salt and sugar to 300 families.

The international humanitarian aid agencies haven't been to Tuzla. The refugees could get electricity in exchange for labor, but almost all are women, children and old people. There are a couple of sources of pure water, but they are a long walk from most houses.



"You have to live somewhere, but I don't think I'll ever love this place," says Shehida Mulalic, a Muslim refugee living in Tuzla.

-- Shehida Mulalic, Muslim refugee


If conditions were not bad enough, there is the fear that the Bosnian Serbs will return to reclaim their homes.

"We're waiting every night for them to come back and cut our throats," says Shida Hrustic." We have no door to keep them out".

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Whether the peace pact will take them home or merely legitimize ethnic cleansing, is too academic for these people who hardly know something's afoot.

"Believe me I know nothing at all about it," says Mulalic. Her mother-in-law says she is not going back until the Serbs have left Srebrenica. Weeping, Shida Hrustic says, with both sons gone, she has nothing to go back with or to.

Ahmetovic has read about the treaty, but puts little faith in it or provisions in it to bring him home.

Most of the refugees feel deep down that they'll never see Srebrenica again. The only bright side is that hopes not raised can't be dashed.



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