COVER

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE

HOW A GROWN-UP WAR IS KILLING CHILDREN

ANDREW PHILLIPS July 13 1992
COVER

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE

HOW A GROWN-UP WAR IS KILLING CHILDREN

ANDREW PHILLIPS July 13 1992

THE DEATH OF INNOCENCE

HOW A GROWN-UP WAR IS KILLING CHILDREN

The politics and ethnic hatreds of the Bosnian conflict do not fully explain the agony of Sarajevo. A visit to the north part of the besieged city, up a leafy hill, reveals the real tragedy. On the second floor of a dirty, grey, three-storey building is the children’s ward of Kosevo hospital. There, in an iron cot, lies 15-year-old Ramiza Becirebic, a pretty girl with intense, dark eyes. She says that when she went out of her apartment building a month ago to feed her cat, Mickey, she got unlucky.

A mortar landed in the yard nearby and a small fragment struck her in the small of the back. She is paralysed from the waist down, and doctors say that she will never walk again.

The hospital, Sarajevo’s largest medical centre, has been coping with victims of the war ever since it began three months ago. Dr. Furak Kulenovic, a 44-year-old surgeon, said that 80 per cent are civilians—people who just happened to be in the wrong place when Serbian forces on the outskirts of the city lobbed a mortar or fired a shot. “They are aiming to destroy civilians,” he said, “to paralyse the town and prevent people from coming

out of their shelters.” Added Kulenovic: “I was used to seeing terrible wounds, but what is happening now is too much even for me.”

The tragedy is compounded by the youth of many of the victims. An eight-month-old boy, Kemal Karic, was lying in a cot tossing and turning in green pyjamas. He seemed perfectly normal—except that his right foot had been blown off. Nearby, a two-year-old girl, Leila Zahiropic, lay restrained by bandages tied to

both sides of her cot. Her face was horribly burned and her left arm was missing. Admir Lipovaca, 26, who had just brought in a two-year-old child with severe injuries, shook his head in disbelief. “Horror films,” he said, “are nothing compared to this.” Slashed: In the adults’ ward, a 40-year-old woman named Bojana Petrovic told how a moment of carelessness put her into hospital. She was in her second-floor apartment around midnight on May 28 when fighting broke out. Her friends and neighbors went to a basement shelter, but, she said, “that wasn’t my habit—I wasn’t afraid.” Instead, she went to the window to see the fightc ing. Two mortar fragments j struck her: one slashed off all \ four fingers of her right hand, : the other severed her left foot. “I’ll go back to my apartment,” she said, “but I won’t go wandering from window to window again.” Other patients’ stories are depressingly similar. One woman was hurt when she emerged from a shelter to collect water, others when they were simply riding a bus. About 1,320 people have been killed in Sarajevo during the three months of fighting, and another 6,450 injured. Hour after hour, new casualties come into the hospital. Others do not make it that far; they end up in the mortuary in a squat, ugly building only 100 m from the children’s wing of the hospital. Said an exasperated Kulenovic: “Soldiers are paid to kill other soldiers, not women, children and old people.”

The unending toll has left many local people cynical about the United Nations peacekeepers and their muchpublicized effort to open the city’s airport and bring in aid. Salem Mujezinovic, who lost his right leg below the knee while fighting a week ago on the Bosnian side, dismissed the UN force and the airport opening as meanI ingless. “The fighting just goes on and 8 on,” he said. “Doesn’t the world have I eyes? Is everyone blind?”

ANDREW PHILLIPS