Muslim World and Bosnia Frustration with UN Response Leads Some Islamic Nations to Aid Bosnians

By Sassan Tabatabai. Sassan Tabatabai is a John M. Olin Research Associate University. | The Christian Science Monitor, May 11, 1993 | Go to article overview

Muslim World and Bosnia Frustration with UN Response Leads Some Islamic Nations to Aid Bosnians


Sassan Tabatabai. Sassan Tabatabai is a John M. Olin Research Associate University., The Christian Science Monitor


AS the West sits idly on the sidelines and watches the systemic extermination of Bosnian Muslims, an outraged Muslim world, with clenched fists and whispers of jihad (holy war), readies itself to become involved in the Balkan war.

The Islamic Conference Organization (ICO), 50 Muslim countries with more than 1 billion inhabitants, following the lead of its two most outspoken members, Iran and Turkey, has been calling for military intervention in Bosnia. Islamic countries view the inaction of the United Nations as Western hypocrisy toward the Muslim world, especially in light of the swift, decisive end brought to Iraq's adventurism in Kuwait.

Anti-Serbian sentiments are boiling in these countries, and many point a finger at the UN as a benign culprit in the Bosnian fiasco. Hikmet Cetin, Turkey's foreign minister and usually a staunch supporter of the West, could no longer restrain his criticism of the UN and lashed out at Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Mr. Cetin said the secretary-general "has failed to discharge his duties with the required sense of responsibility and seriousness."

Ayatollah Emamikshani, a senior Iranian cleric, was equally critical: "If the UN seeks to take things seriously and declare itself to be the organization of nations ... and not an organization of arrogant powers ... it must rush to the aid of those being tyrannized." He proposed that "all the Islamic states should form a united army for the liberation of Bosnia-Herzegovina." Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's foreign minister, added weight to Emamikashani's proposal by stating that Tehran could "act independently to protect the Muslims of Bosnia."

Such rhetoric is expected from fundamentalist Iran. But similar threats coming from Turkey, perhaps the most westernized Islamic country in the world, are cause for concern. Turkey is torn between its patronage to the West and its moral obligation to fellow Muslims next door. Many elements within the country see Turkey as bending backwards to appease the West, while, as it is argued, Turkish concerns continue to be put on the back burner by its so-called European allies. The situation has reached a pointwhere further Turkish inaction could threaten the current government. Vocal elements within Turkey are increasing their call for active engagement in Bosnia. Necmet Erbakan, leader of the Turkish Prosperity Party, bluntly stated his party's intentions on Turkish television: "If we come to power, we will do in Bosnia what we did in Cyprus." This is not only a call for action but amounts to a slap in the face for the UN, considering the UN's long-time involvement in Cyprus.

Islamic countries, no longer able to restrain their feelings, have been providing clandestine aid to the Bosnian Muslims. In September 1992, an Iranian Boeing 747, which was supposed to be carrying relief supplies to Bosnia, was intercepted by Croatian authorities in Zagreb. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the plane was loaded with 4,000 rifles and more than 1 million rounds of ammunition. …

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