On this day, 28 years ago, a sniper bullet fired by Bosnian Serb forces killed seven-year-old Nermin Divovic in Sarajevo as he was walking home with his mother Dzenana and sister Dzenita. The bullet hit his pregnant mother in the stomach, passed through her and killed little Nermin on the spot, hitting him in the temple.
His sister, Dzenita, managed to run across the street, but Nermin stayed by his mother's side, holding on to her jacket.
As Dzenana Sokolovic told N1 last year in an emotional interview on the anniversary of her son's death, there was no shooting that day so she visited her mother-in-law with her children. It was calm that day and everything was going smoothly until the three reached the National Museum downtown, she said.
“The bullet went through me and directly into his head. I didn't see it and then the UNPROFOR soldier, God bless them, approached us. In one moment I see my little one lying down, but I remembered how my father always told him ‘Nermin when the shot is fired, lie down’. I thought that’s what he did. I was bleeding. An ambulance came. Who took me away and how, I didn't know,” Dzenana said.
She was unaware of her son’s fate for a long time, as no one had the strength to tell her the news.
She told N1 that she still struggles to cope with the tragedy, especially every November 18.
Dzenana later gave birth to another son, whom she named Nermin as well. The younger Nermin is in contact with the UN soldier who was in front of the museum on that fateful day in 1994 and who was carrying a seven-year-old boy in his arms, Trevor Gibson.
Dzenana and Gibson were reunited in N1’s studio last year.
Gibson explained that there was a paramedics team stationed at the Museum at the time in case of such incidents.
“Everything was quiet. And I was standing 50 meters away. And in fact, Nermin approached me and asked for candies, and I said, there are none. He went maybe 50 meters further and the sniper fired,” Gibson remembered, adding that he was trying to get the boy treated as soon as possible.
The world became aware of the tragic fate of the seven-year-old boy thanks to photojournalist Enric Marti, who happened to be there at the time and took a photo of Nermin lying on the street.
That photo was published by Time magazine, the Economist, the Telegraph and many other media. It served as a warning and a message to the world that, in one country in the Balkans, people are being killed indiscriminately – the old, the young, pregnant women, children etc.
Nermin Divovic would have turned 35 on October 14 this year.
His mother later testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).