Bosnia and Herzegovina commemorates 19th death anniversary of 'Wise King'

Balkans
Wed, 19 Oct 2022 5:20 GMT
Alija Izetbegovic died 19 years ago following career marked by leading his country to independence from Yugoslavia
Bosnia and Herzegovina commemorates 19th death anniversary of 'Wise King'

Bosnia and Herzegovina on Tuesday marked the 19th death anniversary of Alija Izetbegovic, the first president who led the country to independence from the former Yugoslavia.

Izetbegovic -- a politician, writer, and lawyer who came to international prominence during the country's bitter 1992-1995 war -- is commemorated every year on his death anniversary.

Often dubbed the "Wise King," Izetbegovic is one of the most important Muslim thinkers of the last century.

The first president of Bosnia Herzegovina managed to gain independence for his country on March 1, 1992, months after Slovenia and Croatia broke away from the former Yugoslavia.

He died in Sarajevo on Oct. 19, 2003, due to natural causes, having served as president of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1996 and as chairman of the Bosnian presidency until October 2000.

Early life

Many Muslim families, including Izetbegovic's, moved to the northwestern city of Bosanski Samac in 1868 due to Serbian excesses in Belgrade. His grandfather, father, and their families lived for nearly 60 years in a two-story house until the move in 1928.

Izetbegovic was born in Bosanski Samac city on Aug. 8, 1925, as one of five children of the couple Mustafa and Hiba and the grandson of a Turkish woman (Sidika). Here, he spent his first years of childhood.

When he was 21, he was arrested and sentenced to three years in prison for his activities with the Young Muslims organization in 1946.

After his release, Izetbegovic enrolled in the Faculty of Law and earned a degree at the University of Sarajevo.

Writings and trouble

It was in Izetbegovic's Islamic Declaration, published in 1970, that Bosnian independence, national consciousness, and the expansion of Islamic thought found an audience.

His writings landed him in trouble with the Yugoslav authorities. Along with 12 other Bosniak scholars, he was jailed for 14 years after being accused of "separatism and establishing an Islamic state" in 1983 but was released five years later.

He entered politics that same year and founded the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in 1990 to empower Bosniaks in their land.

Being one of the six republics of Yugoslavia, Bosnia's SDA won 86 seats in the 240-seat parliament in the first multi-party elections of 1990.

In February-March 1992, a referendum on independence for Bosnia-Herzegovina was held, in which 99.44% voted in favor of independence with a turnout of 64%.

A month later, the EU and US recognized the new state.

Bosnian War

However, the then-political leader of Bosnia's Serbs, Radovan Karadzic, rejected the result and was the political face of an armed campaign that culminated in ethnic cleansing and a return to mass murder in post-war Europe.

But neither during the ensuing war nor during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys did Izetbegovic lose the spirit of resistance.

In November 1995, Bosniaks -- amid international pressure -- stopped the war and signed the Dayton Agreement, bringing peace to the country.

After stepping down as chair of Bosnia's presidency in 2000, Izetbegovic lived alone in his single-story home in the capital Sarajevo.

Leaving a flag to his country, Izetbegovic died eight years after the Dayton Agreement was signed, in 2003.

He contributed profusely to the Bosnian civil consciousness, writing several publications and periodicals throughout his career.

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