Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

THE WORLD FROM ...Tuzla, Bosnia the Siege of Srebrenica Has Focused Attention on This City, Where Residents Struggle to Help a Flood of Refugees

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

THE WORLD FROM ...Tuzla, Bosnia the Siege of Srebrenica Has Focused Attention on This City, Where Residents Struggle to Help a Flood of Refugees

Article excerpt

THE people of Tuzla are wondering what the rest of the world really knows about them.

International attention has focused here only since UN convoys last month began evacuating to the city thousands of Muslims trapped by the brutal Bosnian Serb siege of the eastern town of Srebrenica and bringing them to Tuzla.

Camera crews and reporters from across the globe have flocked here to cover the refugees. International aid workers have arrived in numbers unknown since the year-long conflict erupted in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But Tuzla had been struggling in quiet dignity long before the Srebrenica evacuations attracted the world spotlight, doing what it could to care for its own 120,000 residents and some 60,000 refugees there since the war began.

For months, Tuzla was sealed off by Bosnian Serb road blockades imposed after Serb-dominated Yugoslav troops were forced to fight their way out of downtown barracks. They were trying to withdraw with heavy weapons they had earlier agreed to leave behind.

Tuzla exhausted its municipal food stocks by sharing them with the refugees it sheltered in homes, schools, gymnasiums, and any other available spaces. Residents also divided their own meager reserves with the newcomers.

City officials organized systems to distribute food and financial aid, kept roughly 30 percent of the heavy industry operating, and provided power to all of central Bosnia. Tuzla's poorly armed defenders held out against the much stronger Bosnian Serb forces.

All of this was possible because Tuzla, unlike almost every other part of Bosnia, managed to preserve harmony between Muslims, Serbs, and Croats. Most of its people shared a vision of Tuzla as a miniature version of what they thought the world desired in Bosnia: a multiethnic, multireligious, multicultural model of tolerance for the tumult-torn Balkans. …

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