At Bosnian Market, War Gives Way to Free Enterprise

By Barbara Demick 1997, Knight-Ridder Newspapers | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), February 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

At Bosnian Market, War Gives Way to Free Enterprise


Barbara Demick 1997, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Leave your guns and ideology at home. Bring plenty of money. Any currency will do. At the Arizona Market, shopping is the best antidote to war.

Named for Route Arizona, the main road leading to the U.S. military headquarters in Tuzla, the market is a cross between a flea market and an experiment in democracy-building through free trade. It is the one place in Bosnia where you can buy almost anything you want and, more important, do business with anyone you choose.

Fedahija Suvalic, a demobilized Muslim soldier, said, "Nobody here is interested in war. We just want to make some money." He was bartering with a Serb customer over a case of Croatian brandy. Out of a rickety, wooden kiosk, Suvalic, 31, sells wholesale liquor. Although he doesn't drink ("especially not right now, during Ramadan"), he has no objection to trading with Serbs who might have fought against him during the war. "We are just ordinary people who didn't ever want there to be a war," agreed one of his customers, Zoran Sljokic, 35, a Serb who also traded his fatigues for a business suit. He now runs a cafe that features striptease at night. The strippers are Romanian; the customers are Serb, Croat or Muslim. "People come in here to have a cup of coffee or a beer, and I don't k now who they are," Sljokic said. "I don't ask, and I don't care." The Arizona Market wasn't conceived so much as it evolved. After U.S. soldiers arrived in December 1995 as part of the NATO mission to enforce the peace pact, a 2 1/2-mile-wide zone of separation was established between the two entities that had been carved out of Bosnia. This demilitarized zone might have become a no man's land; instead, it turned into everybody's land. Initially, the trade was in salt. The Muslims in Tuzla, 20 miles to the south, had plenty from that city's famous salt mines, while the Serbs were in short supply. …

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