bosnia report
New Series No: 23/24/25 June - October 2001
 
The Ferhadija Mosque 1992-2001 .

The Ferhadija Mosque in Banja Luka

A chronology - 1992-2001

 

1992 - 27 February, around 11 p.m.

Outside the door to Ferhad-Pasha’s turbe [mausoleum], an explosive device containing almost half a kilo of plastic explosive with a slow-burning fuse was thrown from a moving vehicle. A powerful explosion caused the glass of the entrance door to the turbe to shatter, the stone wall surrounding the door was damaged, and the windows of the mosque were cracked. The attack on the Ferhadija complex, the pious endowment of Ferhad-pasha Sokolovic, founder of urban Banja Luka, took place on the eve of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s independence referendum.

1993 - 5 May, around 1 p.m.

Attempt to slaughter a retired Mufti , Hadzi-hafiz Mehmed-efendija Zahirovic, outside a restaurant called EX(opposite the Ferhadija) owned by Momo Djukic, who is mentioned in witness statements as one of the destroyers of the Ferhadija. A group of chetniks wanted to cut the Mufti’s throat, and he was saved by another group of Serbs, likewise armed. Mehmed ef. Zahirovic is one of 64 prominent Muslims who, in 1942, signed a Resolution demanding that ustasha boss Ante Pavelic end the reign of terror against the Serb population of Banja Luka.

1993 - 6 May, Thursday

Serbs in Banja Luka celebrate St. George’s day. ‘I felt uneasy, because we knew from experience that whenever they celebrated, they’d use the opportunity for revenge’, testified Bedrudin Gusic, president of the Islamic Community in Banja Luka. ‘According to eye witnesses, at around eleven o’clock on the evening of the destruction of the Ferhadija and the Arnaudija, neighbours saw from their windows the police blocking off all roads near these mosques, after which they heard military vehicles stopping nearby.’ All mosques in Banja Luka were destroyed during the following six months, at night time during the curfew.

1993 - 7 May

‘In the morning I found that the Ferhadija had been completely destroyed with explosives during the night. I went there to make sure. Many people had gathered, but the police didn’t allow anyone to go near and we could only look at the place from a distance. I met Ibrahim-efendija Halilovic, the main Imam of Banja Luka, and together we went to pray in a mosque on the other side of the Vrbas river. When we got back, somebody said that the police wanted to talk to Halilovic. As we approached the Islamic Community building, which is situated next to the Ferhadija, we saw vans and bulldozers clearing the place where the mosque had been, taking away everything that was left to a location unknown to us.’(Bedrudin Gusic)

1993 - 8 May, after midnight

The remains of the Ferhadija were also demolished. In the following days, officials of the Islamic Community wrote many letters to the mayor of Banja Luka Predrag Radic, asking for the remaining fragments of the mosque not to be thrown onto the town rubbish tip. All these letters were unanswered.

1993 - September

Graveyard, flowers and fence destroyed; remains removed by the ‘Put’ [Road] public utility firm.

1994 - 18 February

The municipal council of Banja Luka decided that a new Regulatory Plan should be drawn up for areas ‘South IV-VII’, and it forbade any building in this area - within which most of the destroyed mosques were situated - for the next three years.

 

1995 - 19-20 December

Three explosive devices thrown. Broken windows on the Islamic Community building. Moslem gravestones and fences removed; worshippers who had come to pray in the Mufti’s office attacked; people attending funerals provoked.

1996 - April

On the Ferhadija site, surveyors mark out a street to be constructed in front of the Express Restaurant.

1996 - 16 October

The ‘Cistoca’ [ Sanitation] public utility firm, acting on the municipal council’s orders, continues clearing the Ferhadija site. Poplar trees felled, yellow building rased, various materials removed.

1997 - 17 October

Cistoca’ workers remove skulls and thigh bones from the mezars [Moslem graves], put them into cement bags and throw them on a truck, then pile rubbish on top of them. OHR officials prevent demolition of the Islamic Community building.

1996 - 6 November

Banja Luka municipal property-register extracts no longer record the Ferhadija, the graveyard or the surrounding buildings.

1996 - 4 December

The Islamic Community submits a complaint to the Human Rights Chamber, asking for permission to erect fences on the sites of 15 destroyed Banja Luka mosques and permission to rebuild them.

1997 - 27 March

The municipal council of Banja Luka decides to expand its decision on the Regulatory Plan for areas ‘South IV-VII’. Until the adoption of a new Regulatory Plan, or for a maximum of five years, these areas remain reserved and building is forbidden on them. Within this area, seven mosques were situated.

1998 - 13 April

In a letter to the High Representative, Banja Luka mayor Djordje Umicevic asks Carl Westendorp: ‘Are you aware of the fact that the Ferhadija - whose restoration you request in the centre of a Banja Luka municipality in which there has never lived an Islamic population of more than 15% - is a monument to a cruel Turkish occupation?’

1998 - 20 July

The Mufti of Banja Luka Ibrahim-efendija Halilovic dies. The Islamic Community asks for permission to bury him in the Ferhadija courtyard.

1998 - 21 July

The municipality refuses the request of the Islamic Community, with the explanation that funerals in the centre of town have been forbidden since 1945. Appeal likewise rejected.

1998 - 22 July

Predrag Lazarevic, president of the Serbian Party of Krajina and Posavina, in an interview for the ‘Simic’ local TV station, states that followers of his party will not allow the funeral of Mufti Halilovic in the Ferhadija courtyard.

1998 - 23 July

A few hundred nationalist protestors gather outside the place where the Ferhadija once stood, in order to prevent the expected funeral of Mufti Halilovic.

1998 - 9 November

A hearing on the Islamic Community’s demand is held before the Human Rights Chamber in Banja Luka. After intervention by the local authorities, both the College for Tourism and the International Press Centre refuse permission for the hearing to take place on their premises. Following intervention by the OSCE, a venue for the hearing is secured at the premises of Agroprom Bank in Banja Luka.

1999 - 11 June

The Human Rights Chamber reaches a decision in the Islamic Community’s case against the Republika Srpska. With 11 votes for and 2 against, the Human Rights Chamber confirms that there is discrimination against the right to freedom of faith of members of the Islamic Community in Banja Luka, and against their right to free use of their own property. The authorities in Banja Luka are ordered to issue a permit speedily for the reconstruction of seven demolished mosques, including the Ferhadija.

1999 - 29 November

High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch removes Djordje Umicevic from his post as mayor of Banja Luka. Reasons listed for his dismissal include preventing the hearing of the Human Rights Chamber, and refusing to issue a permit for reconstruction of the Ferhadija, as well as giving statements that encourage anti-Bosniak sentiment and obstruct the development of a multi-ethnic society.

2000 - 9 August

The Islamic Community demonstrates its determination to rebuild the Ferhadija, regardless of whether or not the Republika Srpska and Banja Luka authorities issue a permit. Republika Srpska premier Milorad Dodik states that reconstruction of the mosque will not be allowed without the appropriate document.

2001 - 27 March

The OSCE Mission in B-H welcomes the decision of the Banja Luka local authorities to grant planning permission for reconstruction of the Ferhadija. The decision was reached almost two years after the original order by the Human Rights Chamber.

2001 -7 May

Several thousand protestors prevent the laying of the foundation stone for reconstruction of the Ferhadija.

 

This chronology has been translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 11 May 2001. On 18 June 2001, despite fresh nationalist demonstrations, the foundation stone for reconstruction of the Ferhadija mosque was finally laid.

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