Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Arkan and the Tigers

with 28 comments

I have always squirmed at the expression “the photograph that changed history” for better part of last two years. Titling my blog “Iconic Photos” rather than “Photos That Changed History”, I have always insisted that vast sociopolitical decisions, rather than trinkets, that inspired historical changes. You can almost believe all that, right up until that moment you come across the one.

Ron Haviv’s photograph of a Serb gunman about to kick a bleeding woman in the head was perhaps that one for many. Ron Haviv remembers how he took that photo in The Guardian (Nov. 2009):

During the Balkans conflict, I took a photograph of the Serbian paramilitary leader Arkan holding up a baby tiger. He liked it very much, so when I met him, in March 1992, I asked if I could photograph his troops as they fought. “Sure,” he said.

Later on, I was following some of his men when I heard screaming. Across the street, they were bringing out a middle-aged couple. The soldiers were telling me not to take any photographs when, suddenly, some shots rang out and the man went down. The woman crouched down, holding his hand and trying to stop the blood. Then her sister was brought out: more shots rang out and both women were killed.

As I stood there, I realised that it would be my word against the soldiers’ unless I could get a photograph of Arkan’s men in the same frame as these three people. So as the soldiers set off back to headquarters, I waited behind for a moment. As they moved past the bodies, I lifted my camera.

I was in the middle of the street and I was shaking. When people are in the throes of killing it’s like they are on drugs: their adrenaline is so high. It would have been very easy for any of those guys to just shoot me and say the Muslims did it. Then, just as I was about to take the picture, one of the soldiers, a brash young kid in sunglasses who was smoking a cigarette, brought his foot back to kick the bodies as they lay there dead, or dying. As he did it, I took a couple of pictures, then put my camera down. All the soldiers turned and looked at me, so I smiled at them and said: “Great. Let’s go.”

I was really nervous. I wanted to leave town before Arkan found out what I had photographed, but I couldn’t leave without his permission, so I hid a couple of rolls of film in my car, and a couple down my pants. Then Arkan arrived.

After he heard what had happened, he came up to me and said: “Look, I need your film.” We proceeded to have this whole conversation about whether or not I should give him the film. I made a really big push to protect the film in my camera so he wouldn’t think there was anything else.

In the end, I had to give him the film. Then he let me go and I immediately drove to the airport and sent my film to Paris. That night, I was very emotional about what I had witnessed, and how these people had died. But at least I knew I was able to document it. I truly believed that my pictures could have a real effect in preventing a Bosnian war.

When my photos were published in magazines around the world they caused a bit of an uproar, but not as much as I had hoped. Instead I think they made a difference on an individual level. One general specifically attributed his decision to fight for the Bosnian side to this photograph, and he was one of the people largely responsible for saving Sarajevo.

I’ve been back to Bijeljina and met people in the town who have told me how important it was. The pictures from that day were also used by the war crimes tribunal to indict Arkan, and as evidence in other indictments.

A few weeks after the pictures were published, I heard that Arkan had put me on a death list, and publicly stated that he looked forward to the day when he could drink my blood. After that, I spent the rest of the war, right through to the end of Kosovo, narrowly missing him in different places. Though during the Nato bombing of Belgrade, a friend of mine actually spent time with the kid in this picture. The kid said he was very proud of it.

It made him famous.


Haviv also made Arkan — nom de guerre of Zeljko Raznatovic — an erstwhile juvenile delinquent and bank robber, who grew up to become a politician, famous too. The photo Haviv originally took of Arkan holding up a baby tiger became a mythic icon for Arkan’s paramilitary group, nicknamed the Tigers, whose members included some of Belgrade’s most notorious hooligans. The Tigers committed some of the most heinous atrocities during the Balkan Wars, including the Vukovar hospital massacre, in which hundreds of patients, mainly Croats, were bussed to a deserted field and executed. In the end, Arkan reaped the whirlwind of what he had sown; the man, who even Serbian President, and no angel himself, Slobodan Milosevic said he was afraid of, was unceremoniously gunned down in a Belgrade hotel in January 2000. With war-crime trials in the Hague looming, someone high-up somewhere decided that Arkan simply knew too much.

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

March 16, 2011 at 12:25 am

Posted in Politics, War

Tagged with , ,

28 Responses

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  1. Awesome, awesome post.


    March 16, 2011 at 1:04 am

  2. It was this picture that raised my awareness of the Balkans conflict. I was at university in Melbourne, Australia and I only had a passing knowledge of what was going on in the Balkans. I saw a poster on campus that was this picture with the caption “Silence is consent”. There were no other details on the poster and the photo was so compelling that I had to find out where the photo came from.

    Oz Man

    March 16, 2011 at 2:35 am

    • You must not be familiar with Balkan conflicts if you think the 90’s warranted the phrase, “Silence is consent”. The numbers don’t lie.


      December 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

  3. Thank you. Thank you very much for this post.


    March 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

  4. Excellent post and I remember that picture and how it brought the killing in sharp focus

    Mrs D

    March 16, 2011 at 11:14 am

  5. See also this movie : http://goo.gl/WKbKe


    March 17, 2011 at 6:26 am

  6. This was excellent. A great read. Thanks for putting this up.


    March 28, 2011 at 8:29 pm

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    China Silk Scarf

    April 5, 2011 at 2:50 pm

  8. U fucking moron… This is not Arkan’s tigers…
    This is not their uniform, and they could not wear the sunglasses on their heads. U don’n know shit..
    What a lie…
    Arkans had excelent equipment and were ellite group not some stupid band like on the first picture…


    May 9, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    • It’s Arkan🙂 I live in Belgrade, Serbia .. believe me I know what I’m talking about, and ArArkan’s army was made ​​up of our kids from Belgrade, soccer fans predominantly. only later, after the war in Croatia and then Bosnia, most of the units is professionalized. Named “red berets” were mostly composed of former members of Arkan’s Tigers and former members of the French Foreign Legion of Serbian descent.Soon after that Arkan was assassinated in Belgrade’s Hotel Intercontinental.



      April 18, 2012 at 12:37 am

  9. Just to know, this is brutal and unhuman whoever did it, but stop untrue propaganda against Serbian people…
    Arkan’s group was brutal but well organized unit, who did a lot of bad things… And this text under the picture is full of shit…


    May 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm


    Charles Martel

    July 30, 2011 at 3:12 am

    • I’ll just write that he’s a well known iconic DJ currently doing time for possession of illegal substances and firearms…


      October 7, 2012 at 7:54 am

      • “The young men in contrast to his counterparts had white sunglasses wearing on his head instead of balaclavas . Although it was wet early April or late March, according to the testimony, his glasses were needed, not to protect the eyes from UV rays, but to preserve the relationship with the so-called urban culture he is coming from, even in uncivilized and inhumane actions in which he participated.”
        Excerpt from a certain conversation…


        October 7, 2012 at 8:02 am


    Charles Martel

    July 30, 2011 at 3:19 am

  12. In the first picture, they are croatian paramilitary army. Sometimes, ones need to know about and after talk!! Is the same propaganda that the allies made against the germans in the ww2, only create confusion and hate!


    August 11, 2011 at 12:32 pm

  13. this is not arkan tigers on the first photo – I think – they are hrvtska voluntary troops, the stripe look`s like croatian stripe – sorry but the text is a distortion of the fact but photos are great


    March 21, 2012 at 10:44 am

  14. ivanjoksimovic

    April 18, 2012 at 12:39 am

  15. Got to know of arkan & the happinings of the bulcans!

    Mihir nandy

    March 8, 2013 at 1:02 pm

  16. Why & how islam could have found a place amoung Scandinavians?

    Mihir nandy

    March 8, 2013 at 1:04 pm

  17. Islam o phobia needs to be addressed?

    Mihir nandy

    March 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

  18. Arkan was criminal who committed many war crimes. “Brave” guy when it comes to terror on civilians.


    May 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm

  19. Da Vinci couldn’t have put a better piece of art together.Read Hunting the Tiger by Chris Stewart, Arkan was the Maradona of warlords.

    Matthew virciglio

    July 22, 2013 at 2:19 am

  20. just watch this for an unbiased view of the war http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u04IL4Od8Qo
    Im sick of the serbs always being made to be the evil ones, the croats and bosnian muslims had their fair share of atrocities but the media didnt have the balls to report it as the western polcy was so pro bosnian

    Brian M

    October 31, 2013 at 8:07 am

    • ‘Unbiased’ according to Brian M means a well known Serb propoganda film which was created by Serb Unity Congress, which was used by Slobodan Milosevic at his trial!

      The simply fact is, the Milosevic regime and the JNA consciously plotted the dismemberment of Yugoslavia, the expulsion of Croatia and Slovenia from Yugoslavia, the dismemberment of Croatia and the destruction of Bosnia. Serbian forces carried out over 80% of war crimes during the Yugoslav wars. No amount of pointing to the crimes of the other sides can obscure this fact.

      I can provide evidence for this through the diaries of Borisav Jovic and Veljko Kadijevic (and other participants), intercepted communications between Milosevic and other Serb leaders, minutes of the Supreme Defence Council of Yugoslavia, foreign intelligence reports, human rights organisations, UN reports, international court verdicts and evidence adduced from them, demographic reports (in particular the Research and Documentation Center) and other areas.

      People who try to counter the massive evidence of the guilt of Milosevic, Karadzic and the JNA with talk of “demonising the Serbs” are simply using cheap and dishonest accusations of racism in order to whitewash a murderous regime. They can’t back up their accusation when challenged.


      December 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm

  21. That first pic is Croats wtf delete this post please more false evidence

    Lung hi

    December 26, 2013 at 2:44 am

  22. That photo of Arkan holding the tiger is awesome. If I could live another life i’d love to have been alongside him during those years. The people he and his men killed were low lifes, i’m from the UK and my country is now terminally polluted with Muslim immigrants. Things have gone way past the point of no return, in a few decades the entire world will be overthrown by these animals. It amazes me just how many non Muslims will defend them to the dying end! These fanatics want ALL of us dead. Anybody who can’t see that fact is a fool.


    January 17, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    • I agree with you he was defending his country and getting rid of Muslim Invadershe was a hero to the Serbian people to Christianityand by the way I’m Serbian american-born


      June 11, 2016 at 11:43 pm

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