Rebuilt Bosnian mosque reopens after 1992 destruction
The 16th-century Aladza Mosque (pictured) was seen as a fine example of classical Ottoman architecture in the Balkans before it was levelled by Bosnian-Serb forces trying to create an ethnically “pure” state.
Last year a former Bosnian-Serb soldier was charged for his part in planting the explosives.
Foca was associated with the mass persecution and murder of non-Serbs that took place during the conflict.
Before the war, Muslim Bosniaks made up 51 per cent of its 41,000 residents with the Orthodox Serbs making up most of the rest.
Foca, around 80km southeast of the capital Sarajevo, now has around 18,000 residents and only slightly more than 1,000 Bosniaks left.
Original pieces of stonework, which were dumped after the mosque’s destruction, have been excavated.
“Everything that was connected to Islam, its civilisation or culture was destroyed,” said resident Sulejman Dzamalija.
Sacred items found in rubbish were restored and built into the mosque “to mark the start of a new era in this part of the country”, the 65-year-old said.
Built around 1550, Aladza was one of 17 Ottoman-era mosques in Foca.
Five of them were destroyed during the Second World War and the other 12 were demolished during the wars of the 1990s.
The Bosnian Serbs renamed the town Srbinje but in 2004 Bosnia’s top court ordered the reinstatement of the name Foca.
Mohamed Jusic, the Foca assembly Speaker, said the reconstructed mosque offered hope for the return of pre-war residents and “a new beginning in Foca”.
Members of Bosnia’s Islamic Community praised the efforts to reopen the mosque.
“Today we are witnessing a hope that people will again find peace at this place,” said the group’s head, Husein Kavazovic at the opening ceremony.
Bosnia remains split along ethnic lines with rival groups blocking the reconciliation that would allow the country to join the European Union.
Work on rebuilding the mosque started in 2012 with Turkish and US funding.
Turkish Culture Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said the reopening showed “racism and hatred can make material damage but cannot destroy the culture of coexistence nourished for centuries”.
“It is our primary duty to work with the idea of creating a future that we will be sure will not experience those great pains instead of building the future through suffering,” the minister said.
The US diplomatic mission to Bosnia said the mosque was a “beacon of reconciliation for future generations”.
The Aladza Mosque under reconstruction last year. Picture credit: Wikimedia