IN MEMORIAM: DR NEDRET MUJKANOVIC, SREBRENICA’S WAR SURGEON AND A TRUE HERO
Last updated: January 7, 2009.
- Risked his life to reach Srebrenica on foot through hostile Serb-held territory in 1992.
- Worked as Srebrenica’s war-Surgeon and saved many lives in the Enclave under the siege.
- Recipient of the Golden Lily medal – the Bosnian Army’s (ARBiH) most prestigious award.
- Recipient of the Saint Peter dabrobosanski medal – the biggest award of Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina (see here).
- His team of pathologists worked on identifying Srebrenica victims, including pregnant women and children that Serbs around Srebrenica burned alive (see photos).
- Served as a a key Prosecution witness at Naser Oric’s trial. [Note: His testimony actually helped the Defence]
- His life in Srebrenica was documented in a book titled “War Hospital: A True Story Of Surgery And Survival” by Sheri Lee Fink (limited preview here)
Dr. Nedret Mujkanovic’s (48) lifeless body was found by his wife Jasminka in their Tuzla home around 4:00 am on December 25th 2008. Local Bosnian media widely reported the cause of his death as “suicide by hanging.” According to a local web portal, Tuzlarije, his colleague Dr. Lejla Muminhodzic said that Dr Mujkanovic’s neighbours heard him begging and screaming for help for about 10 minutes. Apparently, neighbours reported a loud noise, as if somebody was slamming objects. However, his wife Jasminka told police that her husband attempted to commit suicide just a night before. His funeral was held on Saturday, December 27th. The case is under police investigation.
“When the ham radio operators in Srebrenica started calling for a surgeon, the responsibility for finding one fell to Tuzla’s surgery department chairman, an Orthodox Christian in a still-mixed but increasingly Muslim city being attacked by separatist Orthodox Christian Serbs… he knew he had little chance of convincing any surgeons to go to Srebrenica against their will, and, with 40 percent of the surgical faculty in Tuzla having fled at the start of the war, he didn’t have much of a selection. After an unsuccessful search for volunteers among the better-trained surgeons, he landed on Nedret, one of his last hopes. The chairman summoned Nedret from his field station to the hospital and made his request. Would Nedret go to Srebrenica? Nedret was flattered to be asked, but how could he get there given the intervening sixty miles of territory controlled by the nationalist Serb military?”
According to Chuck Sudetic (The New York Times, April 24, 1993), Dr Mujkanovic accepted the risky mission and managed to reach Srebrenica by August 5th 1992. “The medicines, bandages and other medical supplies, carried into Srebrenica by 50 men who accompanied him on his trek through Serbian lines, started to run out in mid-September… Dr. Mujkanovic estimated that during his nine months in Srebrenica about 10 to 15 percent of the 4,000 patients brought to the town’s hospital died… Between December and early March, about 20 to 30 people were dying daily from pneumonia and other diseases worsened by long-term hunger,” reported Sudetic.
As the only surgeon in the besieged town,Dr. Mujkanovic performed 1,390 operations, 100 amputations and four Cesarean sections – many times without anesthetics. According to war correspondent, Peter Maass, (The New Republic, October 12 1998) “…in addition to Muslims, he operated on captured Serb soldiers and protected them from the retribution that many people in Srebrenica desired.”
In The New York Times article, Dr Mujkanovic recalled some of the horrors he experienced during his stay in Srebrenica. “The Serbs knew there was a camp of refugees from Cerska and Konjevic Polje in the school,” he said. “They directed their fire at that location. It came completely by surprise. There were pieces of women scattered about, and you could not see how to fit them together. I saw one dead mother lying on the ground and holding the hands of her two dead children. They all had no heads.”
After the war, Dr. Mujkanovic received the Golden Lily medal (“Zlatni Ljiljan”), the highest level of recognition awarded by the Army of Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The medal was awarded in recognition of Dr. Mujkanovic’s service, bravery, and commitment to save lives in the besieged enclave of Srebrenica.
In 2005, Dr Mujkanovic served as one of key Prosecution witnesses in Naser Oric case. However, his testimony helped the Defence. He testified that Naser Oric’s forces had to attack militarized Serb-villages around Srebrenica in desperate attempts of starving Bosniak civilians to find food. For example, Serbs used the village of Fakovici as a military outpost for massive attacks on Srebrenica. “No one, including Oric, could have [had] effective control over civilians and the armed forces,” he testified. Oric was “fiercely opposed to those acts of burning and looting” he insisted. Dr. Mujkanovic testified that Oric often visited patients in his hospital. Prosecutors wanted to know whether he was interested in well-being of Serb patients. Dr. Mujkanovic confirmed that Oric “paid the same sort of attention to everyone, [Bosniaks] and Serbs alike.”