Bosnia-Herzegovina commemorated on Friday the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the longest siege in history: the siege of Sarajevo, which defined the Bosnian War from 1992 to 1995.
Like a river of blood, as many Bosnians tweeted, 11,541 red chairs were stretched out for 800 meters along the capital Sarajevo's main thoroughfare, Marshal Tito Avenue. Each red chair represented a civilian killed in the bloody siege during the conflict after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.
This city needs to stop for a moment and pay tribute to its killed citizens, Haris Pasovic, organizer of the Sarajevo Red Line, told Time World.
Some people placed white roses on the chairs, while others placed teddy bears, toys, or books on the 600 smaller chairs symbolizing the children killed during the conflict.
The amount of empty chairs shows the horror that we lived through, Hazima Hadzovic, a resident of the city told Agence France-Presse. I just feel the need to come and honor the victims. I lost so many friends I cannot even remember all of their names now.
The ceremony included a choir of 750 Sarajevo schoolchildren accompanied by a small orchestra.
The iconic cellist Vedran Smailovic performed on Thursday for the first time since fleeing the capital in 1993. He is known for having played in the middle of a central Sarajevo street while the city was being shelled and pedestrians were being randomly shot by snipers.
At 2 p.m. local time, all were asked to stop what they were doing to observe an hour of silence in remembrance of those killed.
The Bosnian War began in April 1992 and ended with the Dayton Peace Accords in November 1995, a peace brokered by the United States after airstrikes by NATO aircraft marked the first combat engagement in the history of the Western alliance.
During the war, Bosnian Serb troops held Sarajevo under siege, shelling the city for 44 months straight. The conflict killed about 100,000 people and forced about one-half the population of 4.4 million to flee the warring country.
I mostly recall the near-continuous bombing, the snipers, the dead, Fuad Novalija, a craftsman in old Sarajevo, told AFP. The shells fell when we least expected them. People were killed as they queued for water or bread.
Today, Bosnia-Herzegovina is no longer a country at war. But the ethnic conflicts that provoked the four-year bloodbath still repeatedly surface in the nation's politics. The country remains divided into two ministates, one dominated by Croats and Bosnian Muslims, and the other by Serbs, linked by a weak central government.
The victims fell here because we wanted to preserve the state, but I fear they fell in vain, Kanita Hulic, an attendee at the memorial concert, told Reuters.