Svitac was established to run inter-ethnic arts workshops in Brčko, North East Bosnia. It is a unique place, as under the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995 it’s status could not be decided upon. Therefore in 1999, the district was awarded special multi-ethnic status as the “Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina”, operating on a self-governing basis.
The “Brčko district of BiH” (where Svitac works) consists of Brčko town and the Zone of Return (ZOR), formerly Zone of Separation (ZOS). Between 1996 and 1999 Brčko town was a part of Republika Srpska (temporarily and by default) and the ZOS a buffer zone between the Federation and RS, being rebuilt and de-mined after virtual destruction in the war. The ZOS was, until mid-1997, uninhabitable and heavily mined. But now it is largely rebuilt with power and water restored to many areas
Brčko district is governed by an international supervisor who has power over local government to implement the Dayton agreement and required political and economic reforms.
This map shows the division of Bosnia into the Republika Srpska (pink) and the Bosnian-Croat Federation (blue). Before the war the town of Brčko was home to 41,000 people, 55% Bosniaks, 19% Serbs, 7% Croats and 19% others. Serb army forces seized the town of Brčko on 7 May 1992. Many men were detained in the concentration camp situated outside the town during the war, while women and children were able to leave to Muslim or Croat controlled areas. A series of mass graves have been found in the area.
At the same time, many Serbs who were forcibly displaced from areas such as the Krajina or Sarajevo (after Dayton) moved to Brčko. The town’s current inhabitants are still almost entirely Serb.
The return of displaced people (DPs) to Brčko district is progressing. However, most of the current Bosnian Serb inhabitants are themselves DPs, so cannot vacate houses until their own pre-war homes are vacated and/or rebuilt. This slows down and complicates the return process.
Brčko’s outlying districts have different ethnic breakdowns – Rahic is Bosniak, Broduša is largely Bosniak, with a Roma minority and Dizdaruša is almost equally Bosniak and Serb, for example. The ZOR is occupied mainly by returnees, originally from Brčko town, and DPs from elsewhere in Bosnia.
Although the economic, infrastructural and political situation in Brčko is slowly improving, there is still a long way to go and much work to be done between the different communities before any kind of multi-ethnic society can develop. Svitac, along with other organisations in the region, aims to help this process.