Visiting Jeddah

Izetbegović’s visit to Jeddah, where an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) was held in December 1992, turned out to be one of his more significant visits to an Islamic country.  Izetbegović wrote in great detail about this meeting in his Memoirs, giving an excellent impression of the atmosphere, mood and circumstances at that time:

“I took off from Sarajevo in an UNHCR aircraft.  The personal aircraft of Sheikh Qasim, Sultan of Sharjah, a good, highly educated man and great friend of Bosnia, was waiting for me at Zagreb.  Sharjah is one of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  On our way to Jeddah, we landed at Tirana, where we were joined by Sali Berisha, president of Albania.  As we flew over Albania, we marvelled at both the beauty and the poverty of the country: the green fields and foothills of the coast crisscrossed by narrow cobbled roads.  The aircraft landed at the half-derelict airport surrounded by hundreds of the grey concrete bunkers built by Enver Hoxha’s regime.  President Berisha, a US-educated physician, was fully aware that as a result of Enver’s communism, his beautiful country was in a terrible state.  When I asked him about the economic situation in Albania, he replied that it was like a rock-hard beaten path where it was almost impossible to grow anything.  We were met at Jeddah International Airport by Prince Salman.  Tall, wearing traditional Arabic costume, with a hooked, typically Semitic nose, and a loud, harsh voice, the prince has long been an example of the most natural modesty of demeanour. ‘Mr President, we have called this extraordinary conference so that all of us together might do more for your people.  We shall not stand quietly by as Muslims suffer like this,’ he said during our brief wait in the airport’s ceremonial lounge.  At Qasr al-Mu’tamar, the palace where important meetings are held, the conference was opened the following day by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, as his official title has it, who spoke fluently and boldly, referring to international law and charters and to the religious obligations of every Muslim and every OIC member state, highlighting the sufferings of the Muslims in Bosnia.  In line with the old ways of diplomacy, the conference ran along twin tracks: official, and behind-the-scenes.  Amir Musa, Egypt’s foreign minister, Pakistan’s minister Mohammad Sattar, Iran’s foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and, of course, Prince Salman, set the tone for the two-day conference.  I learned that President Turgut Ogal of Turkey was in Ankara, following the events in Jeddah.  On the first evening, a draft resolution was produced, to be adopted the following day, but it was too mild and general, with no commitments or timelines. Silajdžić and Šaćirbegović paced nervously about the hotel room, disappointed by the ‘billion Muslims.’  All of a sudden the telephone rang: Velayati was calling.  By next day the draft had been fundamentally reworked.  We were happy with the result and were waiting for the resolution to be adopted when we learned that Lord Owen, international mediator at the talks on Bosnia and Herzegovina, had walked angrily out of the conference, clearly unhappy with the new draft resolution.  The Muslim countries were calling upon the United Nations to lift the arms embargo by 1 February 1993, failing which they would cease to observe it .... Before our departure our hosts arranged for us to perform umra.  We donned the ihram and set off for Mecca.  Every idea one has of the Ka’ba from seeking images and reading descriptions of it pale into insignificance when one sees the real thing.  I caught my first glimpse of it from the street, through the forest of columns.  We came out at the portico near the garden of Zamzam.  Some pilgrims recognized me and began chanting, ‘Bosnia, Bosnia.’  I found a corner and prayed two rakaats, the impressive height of the Ka’ba before me. ‘O Lord, help my unfortunate, isolated people, so far from their centre,’ I prayed silently, before beginning the rituals as instructed by the Arab guide, who chased off the surprised pilgrims in front of us.  ‘Bosnia, Bosnia, may Allah help our brothers from Bosnia’ cried the weeping Muslims from every corner of the world.  The next day we took off on our journey home.  In the lounge at Jeddah Airport, Prince Salman, who had come to see us off, came over to me and said in an undertone, ‘Mr President, permit me to tell you that before we left for the airport, Al Gore called me from America and told me that the US was going to reconsider its position in regard to the embargo on the transfer of arms to Bosnia and Herzegovina’.”

Bill Clinton, Governor of the state of Arkansas, had just won the presidential election, and was soon to take over the leadership of the world’s only superpower, with Al Gore as his vice-president.   The US did indeed gradually change its policy towards the crisis in ex-Yugoslavia, and later took over the initiative from Europe.

MUSEUM EXHIBITION

The permanent museum exhibition is located in the towers Kapi-kula Ploča and Širokac. In the Ploča tower, the life of Alija Izetbegović as statesman and politician is displayed on chronologically arranged exhibition boards, accompanied by text and photographs. In the Širokac tower, the exhibition is dedicated to Izetbegović's role as the Supreme Commander in the defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Serbian agression.

 

SCIENTIFIC AND RESEARCH CENTER

Established in the recent times, the Museum „Alija Izetbegović“ offers modern answers to questions from the past, but also sets the foundation for the future. Through its objective scientific approach, it encourages young people, intellectuals and researchers to approach modern history with expertise and knowledge. 

 

EDUCATION

The Museum educational programs are designed for elementary and secondary school students. They include professional tours of the permanent museum exhibition, interactive school workshops, pedagogical and educational publications, lectures, special programmes observing important historical dates, etc.