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The village of Sevarlije, which lies just beyond the outskirts of Doboj town, is another example of a surprising local post-war success story. In 1997 it was still an abandoned wilderness. Houses had been looted and burned down in 1992. The whole area of the village along the River Bosna, including the primary school, was mined. Weeds and bushes had overgrown gardens, houses and roads after the village was abandoned.

In 1992, the villagers living in Sevarlije, and in neighbouring villages, were told to hand over their weapons by the hard-line Bosnian Serb authorities in Doboj. The villagers, as elsewhere in Bosnia, believed, at first, that if they co-operated they might be left alone. They were wrong.

On 17 June 1992 they were shocked to find themselves under artillery shelling. Nusret Delic remembers the very moment it started:

"It was the European Soccer Championship. The final in which the Danes won. We were watching the game in my room, when we heard the first shot."

nusret delic
Nusret Delic

Panicked villagers tried to escape across the river. But the water-level was running high after heavy rainfall. Three people drowned. Two more were killed and six were wounded by the shelling. The next day, paramilitaries wearing masks to hide their identities, entered the villages. They demolished the mosque and blew up its minaret. They looted and burnt all of the houses. They killed 30 men that they came across in Sevarlije. A woman remembers those terrible days:

"When those three came, they put us all down here against the wall of the barn and then they told us: "Now we are going to kill you all!"

Some 300 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, were detained and taken to the Yugoslav Army barracks in Sevarlije. The village was abandoned.

Sevarlije's former village leader, Aziz Ibrakovic, co-ordinated the return of his citizens to their home village with great determination. Firstly, he collected applications, which he handed over to UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency), and to the Doboj municipality.

Aziz Ibrakovic

First 50 applications for return were registered with the Municipality. Then 100. In the end there were 400.

Only in 1998

June 2008

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