Srebrenica love story stirs hope for Bosnia

Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:01am EDT
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By Daria Sito-Sucic

SREBRENICA, Bosnia (Reuters) - To an outsider, there may be nothing strange in the love story between Almir Salihovic and Dusica Rendulic: boy meets girl, they fall in love, live together and have a child.

But he is Muslim and she is Serb and they are the first mixed couple in Srebrenica since Serb forces slaughtered around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the overwhelmingly Muslim Bosnian town in 1995, Europe's worst atrocity since World War Two.

They say they are not bothered how people perceive them in the town, where Serbs now outnumber Muslims, and expect no problems for their son, whom they named Jusuf after one of Almir's six uncles killed in the Srebrenica massacre.

"If I had six sons, I would name them all after Almir's late uncles," said Dusica, 24, pointing at abandoned houses that once belonged to her partner's uncles.

For many in the impoverished country, their tale offers hope Bosnia's Muslims, Serbs and Croats can learn to put their animosities behind them, even in places where the war still casts long shadows.

International organizations have spent more than a decade trying to undo the "ethnic cleansing" that split Bosnia three ways, but less than a third of those driven out for having the wrong name have returned to their pre-war homes.

The numbers are even lower in Srebrenica, where activists say Serbs and Muslims live in parallel worlds and there is no political will to bring them together.

"These young people are definitely our only hope," said Dragana Jovanovic, the director of the Friends of Srebrenica non-governmental organization.   Continued...