Bosnians Gather to Remember the Destruction of the Iconic Mostar Bridge10 Nov 2020
On Monday, the people of the town of Mostar gathered to commemorate the 27th Anniversary of the destruction of the town’s iconic bridge during the Yugoslav Wars.
Built by the Ottoman architect Mimar Hayruddin in 1566, the Mostar Bridge (Stari Most) stood in place for over 400 years, connecting the town’s Bosniak and Croatian neighbourhoods. It was destroyed in November 9, 1993 as a result of shelling by Croat forces.
The bridge, which was rebuilt in 2004 in accordance with the design of the original bridge, has since been a symbol of both the conflicts that ravaged the region, and the process of recovering from them.
“We were a generation that grew up with this bridge”
The commemoration events started on Monday morning, at 10:16, corresponding to the time the bridge collapsed into the Neretva River. 27 years ago that day, the bridge had been hit by several artillery and grenade rounds launched by the Croatian Defence Council over the previous days.
Its destruction came after fighting burnt through the Old Town of Mostar, resulting in the destruction of much of the area including the only bathhouse in Herzegovina.
At the time, the destruction of the iconic bridge sent shockwaves through not only the residents, but the world as a whole.
“It was the most difficult moment of my life because we were a generation that grew up with this bridge,” said Ramiz Tiro, a local resident.
After the sirens, which marked the start of the commemoration, ended, residents threw flowers into the river to remember those whose lives were lost.
This was followed by water jumpers jumping into the river similar to how generations of youth would jump off the bridge as part of a local tradition. Highlighting the sombre and solemn tone of the event, the jumps were done without applause or cheering.
Among those attending was Emir Balić, a renowned diver from Mostar.
“This bridge is the symbol of the city. It was everything to us, back at the time. That is why it is important to mark the anniversary of its destruction and its reconstruction,” said Balić.
In the years that followed the war and the reconstruction of the Mostar Bridge, local activists have come together to ensure that the lessons of its destruction are never forgotten.
The rebuilt bridge itself represents not only reconstruction and revitalisation but also a desire to connect across the divisions that has caused such untold destruction.
At a time when the evils unleashed in these wars are alive and increasingly active, the anniversary is even more relevant in reminding the world what is at stake.