Srebrenica survivors block Sarajevo road in protest

SARAJEVO, Jul 14, 2000 -- (Reuters) Dozens of survivors of the worst massacre of the Bosnian civil war blocked a main highway into Sarajevo on Thursday in protest at being evicted from Serb-owned homes where they were reposed.

Long columns of vehicles tailed back from the city's main exit to the south as angry women and men blocked the road at two different points.

Sakib Muhic, 35, a refugee from the now Serb-controlled town of Bratunac near Srebrenica, said the refugees were protesting against the attempted eviction on Thursday of 20 Moslem families from the southern suburbs of Sarajevo under a court order.

Thousands of Moslems from Srebrenica, the survivors of a 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Moslem men by Bosnian Serb forces, have been accommodated in empty Serb houses in Sarajevo suburbs since the Serb exodus from the capital in 1996.

The international organizations overseeing the Bosnian peace process have put pressure on local authorities and courts across the country to pave the way for people to return to their homes to try to undo the "ethnic cleansing" of the war.


Muhic, who lives with eight members of his extended family in an empty Serb house, told Reuters that hundreds of refugee families had been told they must leave the houses they are occupying, but did not feel safe enough to go home.

"We would leave these houses anyway, but only when we are enabled to return to our own homes," Muhic said.

"We want to go back to our homes; we don't want to go to third countries, " said Muhic's sister Kadefa Rizvanovic, who lost her husband after the fall of Srebrenica. "We only demand security for our return."

Muhic said the protest had begun in the morning. It was watched by police, who did not try to intervene, and by early on Thursday evening the Moslem refugees had dispersed.

During the protest, the refugees complained that local Serbs did not return to live in their houses even after they had been evacuated, while the evicted Moslems had to go to live in schools and collective camps.

"They get donations to rebuild their houses. Who will pay for our houses?" one of them said.

Some 3,000 Moslems held a solemn prayer for their dead in Srebrenica on Tuesday amid tight security measures to mark the fifth anniversary of what is widely seen as Europe's worst atrocity since the end of World War Two.

On the eve of the anniversary a Moslem house in Srebrenica, whose Serb occupants had recently been evicted to make way for the owner's return, was set on fire, the fourth such arson attack in the town in the past two months.

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