Mostar marked on Tuesday the 15th anniversary of the reconstruction of its landmark Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, by awarding UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres for his contribution to the strengthening of bonds between cultures.
The event, organised by the Centre for Peace and Multi-Ethnic Cooperation, saw participants throw flowers from the bridge into the Neretva river, divers leap from the landmark and the ‘Mostar Peace Connection’ award ceremony.
Earlier recipients of the award include Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel and Alois Mock, for their contributions to peace, trust and cooperation among people.
This year, UN Resident Coordinator Sezin Sinanoglu received the award on behalf Guterres and read a letter from the Secretary General to the NGO organising the event.
“The Old Bridge and the historical core of the Old Town of Mostar, which was rebuilt in their full glory, bare testimony to the force brought on by diversity, cooperation and peace,” he wrote.
“For more than 450 years the Old Bridge is the symbol of this wonderful, diverse, creative city and energy. It also reminds us of our commitment to overcome all our differences and work together on building peace and harmony,” he added.
Guterres expressed hope that “soon all citizens will be able to use their voting rights to decide on the future of this city and Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Elections have not been held in Mostar since 2008 due to political bickering between the main parties there.
“The UN and I personally stand at your disposal to help you in all your efforts to build a prosperous, stable and peaceful Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Guterres wrote, expressing thanks to the head of the NGO and former Mostar Mayor Safet Orucevic.
The NGO also gave out Special Charters to the Memorial Centre Potocari, where the victims of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide are laid to rest, for its continuous contribution to the fight for the truth, insistence on revealing the fate of Srebrenica’s missing persons and punishing the perpetrators of the crimes.
“We need peace, we need togetherness. We must live together and build together a better tomorrow for those who were left behind by their loved ones,” said Munira Subasic, the head of the Movement of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves.
She emphasised the importance of finding all mass graves and exhuming the remains of all the genocide victims, identifying them, and giving them a proper burial at the Potocari Memorial “so that the mothers, families and closest relatives can finally be freed of that agony of searching for their loved ones.”
Bosnia’s first President, late Alija Izetbegovic, was also given the Charter posthumously for his support in the rebuilding of the Old Bridge as a monument of peace.
Orucevic said that people like Izetbegovic “never gave up” on the bridge being a “joint symbol of all citizens and peoples of the entire world.”
The traditional ‘Mimar mira’ – Builder of Peace – awards were handed out to individuals who have promoted universal values of good, peace and tolerance, and who contributed to the affirmation of Mostar.
Among the recipients were Fadil Novalic, Prime Minister of the Federation (FBiH), one of Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions, former Presidency members Tatjana Ljuljic Mijatovic, Ivo Komsic and Miro Lazovic, ex Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak and others.