A group of believers arrive for the opening ceremony of the mosque in Gradiska, 80 km north of Banja Luka, 14 July 2001. Several hundred Bosnian Muslims gathered in the Serb-run town of Gradiska on Saturday for a ceremony to mark the inauguration of a mosque that was rebuilt after being destroyed during the 1992-95 war. The original Obradovacka mosque, built three centuries ago, was destroyed by Bosnian Serbs during the war along with other nine mosques in Gradiska
GRADISKA, Bosnia-Hercegovina, July 14 (AFP) - Some 700 Bosnian Muslims gathered under tight security in the Serb-run town of Gradiska over the weekend for a ceremony to reopen a mosque that had been destroyed by Serb forces during the 1992-95 war.
"From now on this is a town of peace, freedom and prosperity," Gradiska mufti Besim Seper said during the two-hour-long ceremony, which went off without incident.
Seper also praised some 800 local policemen who provided security at the ceremony at the Obradovacka mosque, the first to be reopened in Gradiska, a town in the Serb-run part of Bosnia known as Republika Srpska (RS).
The original Obradovacka mosque, built three centuries ago, was destroyed by Bosnian Serbs during the war along with other nine mosques in Gradiska, which is located some 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of the Serb capital of Banja Luka.
The mosque was rebuilt from funds largely donated by Muslims who lived in Gradiska before the war, but were in many cases chased from their homes by Serbs. The town's Serb and Croat population made a smaller contribution.
"It's not surprising. Kind-hearted people do not mind such things," Vehbija, a 51-year-old Muslim who continues to live in Gradiska, told AFP.
"It's still early but time heals all things," he added.
But Hava Brkic, a 46-year-old Muslim refugee who returned to her home town to attend the ceremony, disagreed.
Two young Muslim girls, members of a choir, attend the opening ceremony of the mosque in Gradiska, 80 km north of Banja Luka, Saturday 14 July 2001. Several hundred Bosnian Muslims gathered in the Serb-run town of Gradiska on Saturday for a ceremony to mark the inauguration of a mosque that was rebuilt after being destroyed during the 1992-95 war. The original Obradovacka mosque, built three centuries ago, was destroyed by Bosnian Serbs during the war along with other nine mosques in Gradiska.
"It's all forced. We don't have any rights here. I was born here but our Serb neighbors chased us away," she said.
"Here I'm not allowed to say I'm a Muslim," Brkic added.
Muslims made up around a third of Gradiska's pre-war population of some 60,000. Some 3,000 remained in the town during the war, while an estimated 3,000 have returned to Gradiska so far.
Work on rebuilding the Obradovacka mosque started in August last year.
Another Gradiska mosque is due to be reopened on August 11.
"This is a mosque of peace and no one has to be afraid of it," Banja Luka mufti Edhen Camdzic said.
Besides local officials, the ceremony was also attended by representatives of the international community.
Most members of the local Serb population, however, remained aloof.
"I just do not care, one should do as one pleases," an 18-year-old Serb, who was passing by, said.
Although Saturday's event went off peacefully, previous ceremonies in May to mark the rebuilding of two mosques in the Bosnian Serb towns of Banja Luka and Trebinje sparked violent anti-Muslim riots which left one Muslim dead and several dozen injured.
The international community strongly criticized the violence.
Post-war Bosnia is divided into the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
State of Bosnia-Herzegovina is NOT DIVIDED, but temporarily
administratively reorganized into two entities, in order to obtain
peace and tolerance - of which obviously the author has neither
as she skillfuly distorts the truth.
The author calls Bosnians who gathered in Gradiska "Bosnian
Muslims" although their own name is "Bosniak", not "Bosnian
Muslim" - former communist invention which created lots of
confusion and misunderstanding. And although huge majority of
Bosniaks are muslims, they are not by all means the only
muslims in the State Bosnia-Herzegovina, as substantial number
of other European Muslims moved in in the post-war years.
And said mosque was destoryed not only by local individuals
who claimed to be Christian Orthodox Serbs but by individuals
from Serbia and Montenegro as well who continue to undermine
the Bosnian statehood, the reputation of benevolent Bosnians
who adhere to their muslim faith and obstruct the reconstruction
of the ruined masjeeds and graveyards in the State Bosnia-
Herzegovina. Just check the case of Fatima Orlovic!