Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Notes from Prison, 1983-1988

Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Notes from Prison, 1983-1988

Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Notes from Prison, 1983-1988

Izetbegovic of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Notes from Prison, 1983-1988


As the leading Muslim political spokesman and intellectual, Izetbegovi'c was imprisoned by the Yugoslavian government in 1983 for a 14-year sentence. During the six years he served in prison, Izetbegovi'c wrote notes on life issues, religion and culture, and politics and political philosophy. These reflections were smuggled out of prison and edited for publication along with a selection of letters from his family.

After describing prison life, Izetbegovi'c has organized his reflections into sections. From his first note When I lose the reasons to live, I shall die, Izetbegovi'c provides a provocative collection of reflections that will interest scholars and researchers of contemporary Balkans, European Islam, and life during the last days of Communist Yugoslavia.


What the reader is about to embark upon (and perhaps read) is my escape to freedom.

To my regret, this, of course, was not a real escape, but I wish it were. This was the only possible escape from the Foca prison, with its high walls and iron bars—an escape of mind and thought. Had I been able to escape, I would have given preference to the real, physical escape.

I also assume that the readers would rather hear an exciting story of a prisoner’s escape from a well-guarded prison rather than read my thoughts and comments on issues in politics and philosophy.

I could not speak, but I could think, and I decided to use that possibility to the maximum. At first I had silent discussions on all kinds of things and I commented on the books I was reading and the events taking place outside. I then started taking notes, secretly at first, but I then became quite “arrogant”—I sat, read and wrote. Thus, 13 little notebooks came about, in the format that technicians call A-5, written in the smallest script and deliberately illegible, so that Mirsada, my typist, went into torment to copy them. I want to thank her for her patience in deciphering my codes. in those notes, “dangerous” words such as religion, Islam, communism, freedom, democracy and authority were replaced by other words that only I knew, words that years later even I found strange and hardly understandable.

For almost the entire first year I wrote nothing, I could not write. That was the year of investigation, trial and adjustment. I think that the first notes were made in 1984, and then notes continued every day for almost five years. As I can see, the last one is marked 3676 and dated 30 September 1988. At the time I was still facing almost 13 years in prison, and death seemed to be my only . . .

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