Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Trnopolje, Bosnia, 1992.

with 11 comments

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 As the media attention in Bosnian Crisis rose, Newsday‘s Roy Gutman, a British film crew from ITN, and the Guardian’s Ed Vulliamy are among the first television crew on the ground. Serb officials blocked their access, but allowed them into a camp, Omarska. As fate would have it, as they departed, they drove past another camp, Trnopolje, where ghastly scenes awaited.

ITN would broadcast the first pictures from Trnopolje on August 6th 1992. The images of wilting Muslims behind barbed wire inflamed public outrage about the war like no postwar genocide. The next day’s frontpages were full of outrage; the Star and the Daily Mirror both recalled “Belsen” in their headlines, with the latter paper captioning the photos, “The Horrors of a New Holocaust”. The media fixated on one particular man with protruding ribs, Bosnian Fikret Alic. His gaunt terrified face became an icon of the Bosnian civil war. It was hard to imagine that he had been at the camp for only nine days when journalists stumbled upon him. American public approval from intervention jumped from 35% to 53%. In a rare emotive address, former British PM Margaret Thatcher criticized her successor John Major, beginning “I never thought I’d see another holocaust in my life.”

The picture was used as evidence in war crimes tribunals in The Hague. But it also sparked a controversy; five years after its publication, LM (formerly Living Marxist) published an article entitled ‘The Picture that Fooled the World‘, claiming that the broadcasts gave the impression Trnopolje was a concentration camp run by Serbs for Bosnians and Croats rather than just a refuge centre and that Alic was emaciated because of a childhood bout of tuberculosis. ITN and Vulliamy never actually used the term concentration camp in their reports, and the latter didn’t even mention barbed wires, focussing instead on Omarska camp; Vulliamy later angrily retorted that those who had died in Trnopolje and Omarska camps were ‘most horribly insulted’ by the LM; ITN and Alic successfully sued the magazine into bankruptcy. But this being the Internet age, blogs and youTube are chockfull of LM supporters but here is the original ITN report:

Soon, other photojournalists headed to Trnopolje, including Ron Haviv. For Agency VII/Newsweek, Haviv covered turmoils in the Balkans, such as the fall of Vukovar, the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, the Sarajevo detention camps, the ethnic conflict in Kosovo, the bombing and the flight of the refugees, ending with the civil unrest in Macedonia.

haviv-trnopolje

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

May 26, 2009 at 10:12 am

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with , , ,

11 Responses

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  1. You should be ashamed of yourself for even mentioning that the photo was fake. These Bosnian Muslim and Croat prisoners were in Serb-run concentration camps. They were tortured and thousands of them were killed. Living Marxism (LM) has no credibility, they are genocide deniers and Serb war crimes apologists. Shame on you.

    • After this photo was taken the Serbs closed the “collection centre” at Trnopolje and released most of the “refugees” – except the 250 who were instead taken to Mount Vlasic, shot and pushed down the cliff.

      http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSL2722804

      Btw, Omarska was actually much worse.

      Robert

      December 3, 2009 at 2:34 am

  2. In June and July 1992, beatings in the camp were very frequent. One of the rooms in the clinic was being used to interrogate and beat male camp detainees. Dr. Merdžanić and his colleagues heard the sounds of people being hit and moaning, and the Serbs verbally abusing their victims. Some of them were brought to the clinic and Dr. Merdžanić and his colleagues dressed their wounds, which he said were normally blunt force trauma or cuts from knives. He said that one inmate had suffered a cut below his knee that severed a nerve. As a result he could not move his foot and always dragged it behind him.

    One of Dr. Merdžanić’s colleagues had a camera, which they used to photograph the injuries people had sustained so that someday they could prove what happened. In order to minimize the risk to themselves, the clinic staff photographed the injured detainees in secret. When a British television network came to the camp in August 1992, Dr. Merdžanić was able to hand the film over.

    http://www.icty.org/sid/202

    Robert

    December 3, 2009 at 2:41 am

    • When asked by Judge Wolfgang Schomburg to give his opinion on who is responsible for what happened in the Prijedor area in 1992, Dr. Merdžanić said that he believed that Serb politicians used propaganda to convince their people to oppose the Muslims and Croats. “It took some persuasion to convince my Serb neighbour with whom I had lived my whole life that I was suddenly his enemy and that I was to be killed.”

      Dr. Merdžanić added: “Why was I put into the camp and then held there for such a long time? What did I do? Can they name at least one thing that I did wrong? Mr. Stakić is here. He’s a physician just like I am, and he made decisions concerning the camps. He knew that we were there. He knew that his colleague Jusuf Pašić, who was facing retirement, had been taken to Omarska and killed there. He knew about dozens of doctors, physicians being taken to Omarska and killed. Why? What for? Why were those people killed? Those people were the Muslim intelligentsia, and they meant something, they were prominent people. Is there an answer to all of this?”

      Robert

      December 3, 2009 at 2:44 am

      • Shame on you and your unintelligent showing of your de-volvement of the human race. The War was one by the Media, Croatians had a stronger lobby and if you look at your history which you haven’t, you’ll see that throughout Serbians history they have never done such crimes to any people. Why? Because they are the victims more so than any other Balkan nationality. Not ever ones hands are clean from the Yugoslavia war but the most blood is on ‘Democracy’s” side*. If it existed at all.

        Italy, Germany, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Albania, United States, France, Spain, Holland, Switzerland. WAR CRIMINALS!

        duder

        September 30, 2010 at 3:53 pm

  3. Is it not at least of note that the barbed wire is attached to the inside of the posts? Why chicken wire? Are they keeping chickens with the inmates? Why are the other men not emaciated? Is it possible to become so gaunt in nine days? (In other photos, why are there men of a rather normally appearance in the background?) Ever seen an Auschwitz photo with a prisoner smiling like that? Why weren’t the men robbed of their clothes and shaved? Why are the men allowed to stand so close to the wire? How did the camera crew get there with all their equipment–by parachute? And once there, do the guards simply not notice them? This stinks

    Thoughtbell

    June 3, 2010 at 3:08 am

  4. [...] with one of the last surviving witnesses of the 1937 Hindeburg disaster, photojournalist Ron Haviv on his harrowing ordeal photographing the Balkan war, BBC reporter Kate Adie’s eyewitness account [...]

  5. Is it not at least of note that the barbed wire is attached to the inside of the posts? Why chicken wire? Are they keeping chickens with the inmates?

    WIRE MEANS NOTHING, YOU ARE A FOOL

    Why are the other men not emaciated?

    NOT EVERYONE ARRIVED MONTHS BEFORE PICTURE

    Is it possible to become so gaunt in nine days? (In other photos, why are there men of a rather normally appearance in the background?)

    SEE ABOVE, FOOL

    Ever seen an Auschwitz photo with a prisoner smiling like that?

    EVER SEE A FILM CREW VISIT AUSCHWITZ BEFORE LIBERATION, THEY SMILED FOR THE CAMERAS IN TEREZIN

    Why weren’t the men robbed of their clothes and shaved?

    BECAUSE IT IS NOT A 1940S WW2 NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP. IT IS A SERB CONCENTRATION CAMP, THE SERBS HAD NO USE FOR HUMAN HAIR, THE NAZIS DID, READ SOME HISTORY…

    Why are the men allowed to stand so close to the wire?

    THEY WERE GIVEN PERMISSION TO SPEAK TO THE FILM CREW

    How did the camera crew get there with all their equipment–by parachute?

    LOCAL OFFICIALS SANCTIONED VISIT BY INTERNATIONAL PRESS TO TRY AND PROVE CAMP WAS A ‘TRANSIT CENTRE’… THEIR PLAN DID NOT WORK

    And once there, do the guards simply not notice them? This stinks

    THE TRUTH CAN BE HARD TO SWALLOW FOR A MORAL COWARD

    Zoran

    December 13, 2011 at 6:30 am

    • Well yes wire does mean a great deal. If one were trying to prevent mass escape as would be expected from a concentration camp, you would expect a great deal better security rather than lousy wire that wouldn’t look out of place in a farm yard.Also a concentration camp can expect to see a huge block on freedom of movement.Instead in this picture we see what appears to be topless men roaming around unchecked. Yes you are quite right, those that were liberated from concentration camps in WW2 would have been smiling too. Yet the difference being that this picture was taken in 92, a full 4 years before the end of the war so the individual in question is a long way from being “liberated” if this was a concentration camp. Your point responding to the lack of emancipation amongst the prisoners is your only valid and effective reply. The rest of it is complete twaddle. Why would the guards give permission to the press to talk to the “prisoners” if there was such a high chance the the prisoner would instead tell the press about the supposed horrors of the camp? Why is there no guard seemingly present supervising the flow of the interview? Why as well would the guards allow such a large group of supposedly desperate and scared people near such a flimsy fence? Why in other photos from the same report are there masses of tents in the field? Masses of tents are more reminiscent of refugee camps rather than concentration camps. I have no doubt that genocide, massacres and brutality occurred Bosnia and that a significant portion was committed by Bosnian Serbs. However, the story surrounding this picture is just so full of holes and glaring problems that it is hard to believe that the camp in question was used to exterminate non-serbs. History has taught us to question the accepted, not blindly swallow blatant inaccuracies to satisfy ones own ego.

      Joseph Taylor

      May 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      • The film crew was ITV and they successfully sued LM for libel for saying the accusation was fake, LM had to pay them 600,000 dollars in damages, so if its faked the High Court in London must also be in on it, and all the witnesses. They would probably have taken the Pulitzer prize from the guy who won it for the report too. History has never taught us anything, we are still as dumb as ever, humans, pffft….

        twisteds0ul

        June 10, 2012 at 5:06 am

  6. they were faked!!! another zionist film crew, what a shocker.

    troy doophis6

    February 28, 2012 at 12:05 pm


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