Ellensburg Daily Record
21 September 1994.
BIJELJINA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Vojkan Djurkovic [Serb] describes himself as a nice guy, just trying to help people get to where they want to go.
Not so, according to hundreds of Bosniaks who say Djurkovic and his henchmen stole their homes and belongings and forced them to travel through a war zone in northern Bosnia to ‘safety.’
The same story is told by many of the thousands of non-Serbs who have arrived this summer in the government-held town of Tuzla, 30 miles southwest of Bijeljina. They accuse Djurkovic and his Orwellian-sounding Civilian Committee for the Exchange of Population of carrying out a mass purge meant to make the region pure Serb.
Yet Djurkovic portrays himself as a humane man who volunteers his time to help non-Serbs wanting to leave the region, home to about 30,000 Muslims before the start of the Bosnian war 2 and a half years ago. The United Nations estimates only a few hundred are left.
“I only help people,” Djurkovic recently told human-rights activists in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, who were critical of the orgy of ethnic purges in Bosnia’s Serb-held territories. “I help them to be transferred to where they will feel better.”
But many of the recent arrivals in Tuzla say they were forced from their homes after months of intimidation organized by Djurkovic.
They said they finally had no choice but to go to his organization and apply to leave. Then, after paying a $125 transportation fee, they say they are stripped of all remaining money and valuable and dropped at the edge of no-man’s land for a prilous walk into Mulsim-held territory.
One man stepped on a landmine during the journey and died this week.
Often, Bosniak Muslim men are separated from their families and forced to do hard labor before being sent across front lines.
And some who want to stay despite the terror are thrown out of their homes with only a few minutes notice.
“Vojkan told us it is better to go willingly,” said Senada Hamzic, 25, one of hundreds forced out Sunday night and interviewed in Tuzla. “He said the heads of those who do not go will roll like pumpkins.”
Hamzis said her husband and brother were among the men held back for forced labor by Vojkan, who boasted: “I am rotten, but they will be even more rotten by the time you see them again!”
The U.N. High Commissioner of Refugees puts the number of non-Serbs fleeing Serb-held regions at more than 750,000 since the war began in May 1992.