1925 - 2003
This award-winning site contains information about Alija Izetbegovic, the venerable lawyer, politician and author from Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Born: 8 August, 1925; Bos Samac, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Died: 19 October, 2003; Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Education: BS in Law, University of Sarajevo, 1956
Occupation: Lawyer, Politician
Family: Wife, Halida Repovac; 3 children
Activist Career: Imprisoned for campaigning against oppressive Communist rule of Yugoslavia, 1983-1988
Political Career: A Muslim lawyer, moderate, lifelong anti-communist, he has spent most of his time in office trying to save the lives of his fellow Muslims; Helped found the Party of Democratic Action, 1990; Assumed presidency 1990; Elected chairman of Bosnia's three-person national presidency, 1996; Renounced presidency 2000
Office: Party of Democratic Action, Marsala Tita 7a, Sarajevo 71000, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Alija Ali Izetbegovic (1925 - 2003) was a former legal adviser. A lifelong opponent of communism, he was imprisoned for 'pan-Islamic activity' in 1946–48 and 1983–88 by the totalitarian regime in Yugoslavia. In 1990 his political party, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, ousted the communists in the multiparty elections that year. He became President of Bosnia.
Yugoslavia began its split in May 1991, when Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from the Serbian-dominated central government in Belgrade. Izetbegovic held a referendum on independence for Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bosnian Serbs boycotted the referendum, but those who voted opted for Bosnian independence. On March 3, 1992, Izetbegovic proclaimed Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent republic.
The Serbian minority population of Bosnia rebelled, and an armed struggle broke out to determine which ethnic group would control the country. Enforcing a policy of ethnic cleansing, the well-armed Bosnian Serbs set out to "purify" the country by expelling Bosnian Muslims. Serbian forces drove Muslims from their homes, subjecting them to mass rape, confinement in concentration camps and genocide.
During the onslaught against the Muslims, the worst acts of barbarism witnessed in Europe since the 1940s, Izetbegovic stayed with his people and rallied them from his sandbagged office and apartment.
He sought an honourable peace for his country in the face of ruthless demands from Serb and Croat political leaders, and signed the Dayton Peace Accord in November 1995. He was re-elected president of a three-member collective presidency September 1996.
In June 2000, he announced his decision to step down as President of Bosnia. One of the reasons he gave for leaving office was the international community's determination to dilute the Islamic essence of Bosnia and, by doing so, reward the Serbs' policy of ethnic cleansing: "The international community is pushing things forward in Bosnia... but it is doing it at the expense of the Muslim people. I feel it as an injustice," he said. "These are things that I cannot live with."
Mr Izetbegovic had a long history of heart disease, and had received treatment in Slovenia and Saudi Arabia. He had suffered two heart attacks and eventually died in hospital after becoming ill following a fall at his home. Read Alija Izetbegovic's obituary here.
Click here to watch a Real Player video from the BBC about Alija Izetbegovic.
Click here to see excerpt from a video showing the murder of six civilian Muslim men from Srebrenica by Serbian soldiers.
As well as being a politician, Izetbegovic was a respected scholar and writer. His books include Islamic Declaration, Problems of Islamic Renaissance and My Escape to Freedom. He was best known for Islam Between East and West. This insight into the human condition analyzes the West's denial of Islam and the contributions made by Muslims in comparing the offerings of secular and Islamic civilization. It shows where the two meet and part, investigating along the way art, morality, culture and law. The book was originally published in 1984 when Izetbegovic was a political prisoner in Communist Yugoslavia. Although banned in France, it was a bestseller thoughout the rest of Europe in the 1980s. It it is now sadly out of print. Izetbegovic's recently-published memoirs Inescapable Questions: Autobiographical Notes is available from Amazon UK, Germany and France. The British author Nadeem Azam hailed the book as "the most thought-provoking and inspiring autobiography I have ever read". Izetbegovic's Notes from Prison, 1983-1988 is also available from Amazon USA, UK and Canada.
Extract from Izetbegovic's magnum opus Islam Between East and West.
Review of his memoirs Inescapable Questions: Autobiographical Notes
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Last modified: March 2014