Bosnian Muslim Refugees To Leave Croatia For Pakistan
PROMAJNA, Croatia (AP) _ Hundreds of Bosnian Muslims driven from their homes by the war to a tense Croatian refugee camp are preparing for life in another world - Pakistan.
Close to 700 Bosnians, most of them Muslim women and children, have found shelter from the 15-month-long war in a resort in this Croatian coastal village south of Split.
But now they must move again. Croatian authorities told them June 7 they were being relocated to a tent camp in eastern Croatia because the resort was needed for tourists.
Many are refusing, instead taking up an offer or resettlement by the Pakistani government, which has offered to take in up to 10,000 Bosnians. The first planeload of about 300 people is scheduled to depart Thursday, with others to follow.
The Croatian authorities’ action bewildered the refugees and angered Bisera Turkovic, Bosnia’s ambassador to Croatia.
″I don’t believe in this explanation, because there are hardly any tourists in the area,″ said Turkovic, who came to Promajna Wednesday.
Many of the refugees see another reason for the order to move: growing Croat-Muslim tensions in the wake of vicious fighting in central Bosnia that led to the expulsion of about 7,000 Bosnian Croats.
That exodus prompted Vice Premier Vladimir Seks to call for the breakoff of Croatia’s diplomatic relations with Bosnia-Herzegovina. That hasn’t happened, but both sides are bitter.
Bayisa Wak-Woya, a Split representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees who came to Promajna after the refugees sent him a plea for help, also suggested the forced move was a result of ethnic animosities.
″The Muslim-Croat conflict should be contained in central Bosnia, not here,″ he said. ″These people here are nobody’s enemies.″
Pakistan is the first Islamic country to offer to accept large numbers of Bosnians. Though clearly meant primarily for Muslims, Turkovic said the offer is valid for all Bosnians. And, she said, some Bosnian Croats sharing the Promajna facilities with their Muslim neighbors were prepared to go.
Women and children lined up for pre-departure formalities, as she talked. Some wept as they contemplated life on the other side of the world, greatly different from the Western lifestyles of Bosnia’s generally secularized Muslims.
″Of course I’m worried,″ sobbed Azra Imamovic, a 34-year old Sarajevo economist and mother of two daughters. ″I don’t know what to do.″
She said she was afraid to stay in Croatia, as anti-Muslim tensions build - ″We are being called ugly names and see insulting graffiti.″
″But I’m also afraid of life in Pakistan,″ she acknowledged.
″We are European Muslims,″ said 37-year old Dzenada Senic, an accountant from Donji Vakuf. ″We share only religion with the Pakistanis, everything else is different.
″There’s no future for a professional woman in Pakistan.″
Yet, she still signed up - prepared for an uncertain future if it meant a life free of war and hatred.