Photo Essay: 20 Years Later, Bosnia and Herzegovina Still Show War's Wounds

Erin Trieb
Overlooking the valley of Romanija, the ground begins to thaw after winter’s first frost. Erin Trieb

Almost 20 years after the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992–1995), site of Europe’s worst genocide since World War II, the echoes of the conflict still haunt the country’s land.

Bosnia’s resilient citizens are still slowly rebuilding their infrastructure with reminders of the war all around. The remains of massacred Bosnian Muslims are found daily and buried in the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery—over 500 bodies were found and buried in 2012 alone. Serbians occupy Muslim towns annexed during the war. The current unemployment rate is estimated at 45 percent.

The war largely succeeded in separating the country’s three main people, Serbs, Croats and Muslims, and the peace accords cemented those divisions into law. Today, Bosnia’s children are growing up more isolated from neighboring ethnic groups than their parents were. The majority of Bosnian schools have been segregated according to ethnicity. The country itself operates under the guidance of three different presidents, each representing the three different ethnicities: Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs.

But there are signs of progress. This past winter Bosnia’s youth took to the streets in protest. Not against each other or other ethnic groups, but to demand a better life, more jobs and less government corruption. Forged by a common past and dreaming of a better future, the country's youth might be the solution for change and unity in Bosnia. Except where noted, photos were taken during the month of November 2012.

Erin Trieb A man stands on a street undergoing construction outside a hair salon in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia, Mostar was subjected to an 18-month siege. Much of the city is still in ruins and under construction. Although Western countries have pumped millions of international aid dollars in to the region over the past 20 years, Bosnia currently lacks the industry required to produce significant economic growth. Along with a struggling economy, tensions remain high between Bosnia's three people groups: Bosnians, Croatians and Serbians. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A tourist takes a photo outside the St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Mostar. The church was built in 1866 but destroyed in 1992 during the Balkan Wars. When it was rebuilt, it was also enlarged, which makes it appear out of proportion compared to its surroundings. The bell tower was also extended after the war. It was completed in 2000 and, symbolic of the region’s continued ethnic tensions, was built to overshadow the minarets of the mosques on the other side of the Neretva River, which runs through the town. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A smoke cloud caused by firecrackers set off by a fan in the stadium billows across the field during a soccer match in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovena on November 24, 2012.The matches, which for many Bosnians symbolize patriotism and nationalistic pride, usually end in heated arguments or physical altercations between fans of opposing teams. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Enthusiastic fans chant and cheer during the soccer match in Sarajevo. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Teenage lovers kiss while other teens smoke cigarettes and check their phones at a popular cafe in Sarajevo. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A young woman talks on her mobile phone outside of a nightclub in Zagreb, Croatia. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Soviet-era apartments display dozens of satellite dishes in Sarajevo. Many Bosnians in the city live in such buildings. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A woman wipes the inside of a foggy car window with her hand after a rainstorm in Sarajevo. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Italian Catholics, religious pilgrims and priests tour the St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Mostar. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A woman's hair is dyed red at a salon in Mostar. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A woman and her colleagues who work for a nongovernmental organization show off and celebrate an award they received from their work at a bar in Sarajevo. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A young Bosnian woman rides a bus in Sarajevo. Cultural identity in Bosnia varies among its youth. Many young women embrace Western influence and styles, while others adhere to more conservative traditions, such as wearing the headscarf. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A decorative billboard of a beachscape reads "F**k NATO" in spray-painted graffiti outside a government office in Zagreb. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A Turkish soap opera, a popular genre in Bosnia, plays on a television in the home of Medina Mešanović, in Sarajevo. Mešanović, who is unemployed but looking for work, spends many of her evenings at home with her mother. The unemployment rate, which was 43 percent in 2012, spiked to its highest at 46 percent in 2013. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A soldier walks through a park next to a statue memorializing Serbian soldiers from rural Rudo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who served in the Bosnian War. Rudo, which was once home to a majority of Bosnian Muslims, was annexed by Serbian forces during the war and is now occupied by a majority of Serbians. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb A Muslim couple prays over the grave of a relative at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial, officially known as the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide. The victims buried at Srebrenica were mostly male and Bosnian Muslims. Every year hundreds of newly identified victims found in mass graves are buried here. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Tattered papers list the victims massacred in the Srebrenica genocide during the Bosnian War at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The list pictured here is one of hundreds displayed on the interior walls of a warehouse where thousands of Bosniak Muslim civilians were tortured before being executed. Every year hundreds of newly identified victims found in mass graves are buried here. Erin Trieb
Erin Trieb Medina Mešanović spreads her arms like wings on the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge overlooking the Drina River in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, October 2013. Hundreds of Bosniak Muslim civilians were executed and thrown off the bridge into the river by the Bosnian Serb Army during the Višegrad massacre in 1992. The city, which was once home to a majority of Bosnian Muslims, was annexed by Serbian forces during the war and is now mostly Serbian. Erin Trieb
 
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