In Bosnia and Herzegovina, May 7th marks "Dan džamija" (the "Day of the mosques"), the annual commemoration of all the mosques destroyed and damaged during the Bosnian war of 1992-1995. The date refers precisely to the destruction of the Ferhadija mosque, in Banja Luka (northwestern Bosnia), one of Bosnia's most famous and splendid mosques, on May 7th 1993, blown up and literally erased from the city landscape, like the other 15 mosques of the city. Alongside those of Banja Luka, more than 600 Bosnian mosques of various dimensions (džamije and mesdžidi) were totally destroyed during the war, by extremist Bosnian Serb, Bosnian Croat and Serb forces, either with fire or explosives, and sometimes razed to the ground. In some cases, the remaining ruins were excavated and dumped in rivers or deposits, while at the same time parkings, flea markets, garbage dumps or buildings were installed or constructed on site. Hundreds of other mosques were damaged to varying degrees, by shells and gunfire, and some still bear scars from the war. The vast majority of them has now been reconstructed or restored, in their previous, original shapes, or in new dimensions and styles, whilst a few are still under reconstruction (the two last major projects remaining - and ongoing - are located in Banja Luka and Čajniče, respectively for the Arnaudija and Sinan-pašina Boljanića mosques, both protected monuments). Others will most likely never be reconstructed (most notably in the town of Foča, where only 3 of the prewar 13 mosques have been reconstructed so far, which thus marks the lowest record of reconstructed mosques for any city and region of the country). Unfortunately, mosque destruction is still an ongoing process as I write this article, as mosques have been damaged and destroyed by the thousands in the ongoing Syrian and Iraqi conflicts. It goes without saying that mosques, but also churches, synagogues, temples and other religious buildings and shrines are part of our common, shared universal heritage, and should be thus respected, praised, cherished and protected as such. Photos credits : Robin Cognée (2014-2019)
Left : The Ferhadija mosque (originally built in 1579), destroyed on May 7th 1993, reconstructed in 2001-2016 (Banja Luka, northern Bosnia, July 2019).
Right : The small mosque of Kušlat, originally built in the 15th century, destroyed in two times (August 1992 and February 1993), inaugurated after reconstruction in 2013 (Kušlat, near Zvornik, Eastern Bosnia, July 2019).
Below : The new (reconstructed) mosque of Memići (right picture), and the damaged minaret of the former mosque, originally built in the 16th century (left picture), destroyed in August or September 1992 ; the minaret is kept in a small memorial near the new one. The mosque was reconstructed in 1998-2005. (Memići, near Kalesija, northeastern Bosnia, August 2017).
Left : The village mosque of Lubardići, originally built in 1589, destroyed in June 1992 or in the beginning of 1993, reconstructed in the 2010s (Lubardići, near Rogatica, Eastern Bosnia, August 2017).
Right : The Selimija mosque of Doboj, originally built in 1520, destroyed in May 1992, reconstructed in 2002-2004 (Doboj, northern Bosnia, August 2014).
Above : The mosque of Ćela, built in 1966, destroyed in several steps (from October 1992 till January 1993), inaugurated after reconstruction (in a new form) in July 2011 (left picture) ; the destroyed minaret of the former mosque (right picture) was kept standing and used as a memorial to the martyrs (šehidi) of the village during the war (Ćela, near Prijedor, northwestern Bosnia, August 2017).
Right : The Vardačka mosque of Konjic, originally built before 1664 ; the mosque was not destroyed during the war, but its damaged minaret was kept in situ as a reminder of war destruction (Konjic, southern Bosnia, August 2014).
Above : The Aladža mosque of Foča (right picture), one of the most prestigious and beautiful mosques of the Balkans, originally built in 1551, destroyed in several steps between April and August 1992, reconstructed in 2014-2019. Some of the retrieved original stones of the complex are kept in the courtyard (left picture) (Foča, Eastern Bosnia, July 2019).
Left : The Mehmed-spahija Zvizdića stone mosque of Gacko, originally built in the 18th century, destroyed in july 1992, reconstructed in the 2010s (Gacko, southeastern Bosnia, August 2014).
Right : The Esme Sultanije mosque of Jajce, originally built in the mid-18th century, destroyed in October 1992, reconstructed in 2003-2008 in its original form (Jajce, Central Bosnia, August 2014).
Above : The Arnaudija mosque of Banja Luka, originally built in 1595, destroyed on the same night as the Ferhadija in May 1993, still under reconstruction (Banja Luka, northern Bosnia, July 2019).