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Iron, Death and Memory


By Maja Lovrenovi? The iron mines of Ljubija [ly-u-b?-a] are situated in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the 1970s, the region was estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of iron ore in the Balkans. During the 1992-1995 war, the local Serb forces employed the mines’ technology to produce ‘ethnic cleansing’: the mines’ facilities were used to lock up, starve, rape, torture and kill the local Bosniaks and Croats. The mining pits and machinery were used to move and bury their bodies. The most notorious of those sites was the Omarska death camp (Thanks to the British journalist Ed Vulliamy, the existence of death camps in northwestern Bosnia was well documented and revealed to the international public, and in particular, to the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. See: ICTY summary indictment of 1995 on the Omarska death camp).

In 2004, the local Serb authorities sold 51% of the Ljubija mines to the world’s largest steel producer Arcelor Mittal, owned by one of the world’s richest men, Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. Soon afterwards, the extraction of iron ore from the pits was restarted, despite the fact that some 1.500 people are still listed as missing and believed to have been buried in secret mass graves across the mines’ complex (For more details, images and maps on the Ljubija mines, see the „Ljubija Mine Scandal“ dossier). In 2005, the survivors of these horrors were given a promise by Arcelor Mittal CEOs that they will be allowed to set up a memorial and commemorate freely at the site of the Omarska death camp. Yet, two days ago, according to Bosnian daily newspaper, the current Arcelor Mittal management denies having ever given such promise.

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Reading a Post-Apartheid Memorial

Photo by April Killingsworth

Duane Jethro Sunday 8 August, 2010: I am on an expedition to find an elusive Sunday Times memorial in Soweto, Johannesburg. On the way, I drive through Vilakazi Street, passing by Nelson Mandela’s former home. It has been transformed into a museum. The precinct surrounding his former domicile is teeming with tourists and a host of locals plying a range of different commercial strategies aimed at cashing in on the spoils of the heritage venture. Further along the way, I pass the monumental Hector Pieterson Memorial and Media Centre, another heritage project erected during the post-apartheid era dedicated to the memory of the first student to have died in the 1976 student uprisings. Soweto seems to be brimming with new, rich heritage ventures mapping the formerly hidden histories of its former residents. The memorial I am in search of is not very different, having been dedicated to another forgotten memorable moment in time.

I perform a radical driving manoeuvre having suddenly spotted the artwork. The wheels churn up a cloud of dust as I swerve into the open plot of ground opposite Morris Isaacson High School in Jabulani section.

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