Serbian torture base now houses Turkish school

The former Chetnik base, which witnessed many war crimes during the war, has been used as a school since 1997
The former Chetnik base, which witnessed many war crimes during the war, has been used as a school since 1997


Date posted: January 7, 2011

Serbian Military Headquarter  Turned into a Turkish School

A building in Sarajevo’s Vraca neighborhood that was once a command base at which Serbian fascists used to torture Bosnian prisoners during the war (1992-1995) is now serving as a Turkish school where Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian students are receiving an education under the same roof.

The schools founded by Turkish volunteers in the aftermath of the war have become among the most successful schools in the country. The building of the first Turkish school among the 7 elementary and high schools, and a university stands out with a different story.

This building, which was as a military headquarter , torture area and resident for snipers that turned life into hell for Bosnians during the siege of Sarajevo, has been a Turkish school since 1997.

In his statement to Anatolian News Agency’s reporter, İsmail Yapıcı, the education coordinator of Sema Institutions of Education,  said that 2,000 students are enrolled in schools and university that are affiliated with their institution.

Yapıcı said that their first attempt to found schools in Bosnia dates back to the war years of 1994-95 : At that time, 7 vounteers first come to the country to establish schools in Bosnia. They entered the country through an undergrand tunnel because of the war, and yet their school initiatives were not taken seriously by the authorities.  These small group of volunters started making attempts to establish a school as well as publishing adds in the paper to send  Bosnian kids to study in Turkish private schools for free. Yapıcı says once the war was over in Bosnia with the Dayton Agreement, the Bosnian authorities transferred the building that was used as Serbian headquarters to the Journalists and Writers Foundation, which is based in Turkey, for a duration of 20 years and  the construction was completed  with the funds raised in a sports game in Istanbul in 1995.

Bitter memories gave way to songs of brotherhood
“Unfortunately  this building witnessed painful times, but now flowers of education blossom here and  the songs of brotherhood are sung” says Yapıcı.
Yapıcı directed our attention to the fact that children from different nations are educated in the school including Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian kids. Yapıcı said that ‘’Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian kids, they all stay in the same dormitory and grow in brotherhood. The mission of this school  has been to prove to the world that the people of these three nations can coexist and live together.”

Ceylani Akay, the principal of the primary school who was among the firstcomers, said that he was intimidated by the city when he first arrived.
Akay continued: “the school has started education with 5 classrooms and 10 teachers in October 1997.   Our students who had to live in air-raid shelters and very difficult times during the war were happy to be in this building. But of course they were psychologically affected by the history of the school. We tried to help them forget about those days with a messages of unity.”  The principal of Sarajevo High School for Girls, which is housed in the main building of the former Serbian headquarters, Selami Bingöl says that the school with its 225 students had many succes stories, which included a Golden plaque, an award that is first of its kind in the country,  by the Ministry of Education.

The students are happy
Anna Tankosiç, the Croatian third year high school student, stated that she is happy to be at this school and that she has a great dialogue with her friends and teachers.

Bosnian student Berina Sulyich said that she loves the Turkish people and the language and that she can tell all the best things about her school.
Amina Beshirovich whose family lives in Serbia and stays at the dormitory says that she missed her family a lot in the beginning but she became a mature person with the love and compassion of her teachers. “If it wasn’t for our teachers who have come all the way here we could not have been raised to be good people for the others and the society as we have become. This school is really good for Bosnia” she said.
The Chinese student of the school, Rui Zheng, said that although she had difficulty in learning Turkish in the beginning, now she knows Turkish in addition to Bosnian and English.

UNICEF wants to implement this throughout the country
Althhough Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian kids go to same schools in other parts of the country they have different cirricula and teachers from their own ethnic background educate them. Teachers have separate lounges.

UNICEF conducts a study to abolish this system of two schoold under the same roof concept and start a non-segregated education in Bosnia Herzegovina. Celebrites volunteer to come from abroad and  support UNICEF’s project.

In the Turkish schools, which have been operating in the country for 14 years now,  students from different ethnicities receive the same curriculum under the same roof. Many Bosnian officials are trying to implement the Turkish system in their own schools.

Source: Milliyet Newspaper, Jan 5, 2011. It was translated by IDC members.


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