I lived in Sarajevo for five and a half years. It was a city that had survived a bitter 4 year siege under the most brutal circumstances in the 1992-1995 war. Sarajevo lost 10 000 civilians in the conflict that made Christiane Amanpour a household name as she bravely reported from Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital. Behind her, the people of Sarajevo ran from one building to another, attempting to continue with their everyday lives while being targets of strategically placed snipers from shelled out buildings and the mountains that surrounded their beloved city. While their city was engulfed in fire, smoke, and the incessant sound of gunfire, the people of Sarajevo carried their water-cans, carried their dead and, unbroken in spirit, carried on.
Once again last week, I watched my favourite journalist reporting, this time from the city of her birth and mine, Tehran. On my screen, like a bad deja-vu, an older, graying Amanpour reports a story very familiar to one I had watched before years ago. A story of a city under siege. A story of a people attacked by their own. A story of snipers and death but also the story of a people unbroken in spirit.
Like before, the world watches in horror as the bloody bodies of civilians are carried from the crowd. Like before polemical discussions abound as to what the response of world leaders should be to the latest chapter in humanity’s book of inhumanity. Like before, ordinary people watch in awe at the courage of a people refusing to submit to a cruel, military crackdown of their human rights.
More chilling of course are the dissimilarities. Not like before, Christiane Amanpour and her colleagues are forced to stop reporting from inside the country. Not like before, and in an unprecedented manner, no foreign journalists are allowed to report from inside the country and a Canadian journalist is arrested and beaten in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Not like before there is the example of what happened in Sarajevo.
“Every society that is founded on dishonesty and tolerates crimes as an aspect of normal behaviour, be it only among a handful of the elect, while depriving another group, no matter how small, of its honour and even its right to life, condemns itself to moral degeneration and, ultimately, to complete collapse.” – Ivan Klima