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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 18:08 GMT 19:08 UK
Bosnian veteran finds Iraq role
By Nick Hawton
BBC News, Sarajevo

Elvedin Kominlija
Elvedin cannot earn enough in Bosnia to support his family
"I wrote my curriculum vitae the other day," Elvedin told me over a glass of water at my flat in Sarajevo.

"From 1989 until 1992 I put 'waiting for the war to begin'.

"From 1996 until 2005 I put 'waiting for the next war to begin'."

A wry smile broke out across his face. This is the thinking among many Bosnians.

Elvedin Kominlija, a 35-year-old Muslim, is one of a generation of people who got caught up in the Bosnian war.

A decade after it ended, many still see no hope and no opportunity for the future.

"I fought for this country. I gave my blood. And what do I have to show for it? Nothing."

Jobless

For nearly four years he fought in the mainly Muslim Bosnian government forces, defending Sarajevo against the besieging Bosnian Serb army.

I'm not really interested in religion. If my contract says I have to fight, then I have to fight

He commanded a special unit which spearheaded attacks against the enemy. He was injured three times.

"After the war, I went to Germany for rehabilitation for my wounds."

"They let me stay for six years, but eventually I had to come back. When I returned, there was nothing for me - not even a job."

These days he lives with his wife and two children in a rented flat in Sarajevo.

His wife works in a supermarket, earning $300 (164) a month. He has been unable to find a job. Unemployment is high, at around 40%.

He has been forced to make the most of the one skill he has in abundance - fighting.

Now he wants to go to Iraq to work as security for the US-led coalition forces. He already has some friends over there, he says.

"You can earn a minimum of $8,000 a month.

"What you earn in six months there, would take at least five to six years here."

Quiet recruitment

Elvedin says he would not go to Iraq if he could earn enough money in Bosnia to support his family.

Bosnian troops
Bosnia sent a unit to help the US-led coalition troops in Iraq

But he wants to buy the flat and says he cannot "do that living like this".

"It was better under communism," he says.

"At least you could travel without visas in those days."

Nobody is publicising it, but people are being recruited in Bosnia to go to Iraq - quietly, via word of mouth.

There are a number of agencies, shy of publicity, which are involved.

Seminars are held at local hotels in Sarajevo, which describe conditions in Iraq and the work expected.

Most of it involves the protection of oil company staff and escorting convoys - the most dangerous job of all. Baghdad, Falluja and Basra are the most common destinations.

'Not easy'

Elvedin is ambivalent about the dangers.

"No danger could surprise me after what I experienced during the Bosnian war. It's not easy to go back to such an environment, but what else can I do?

Elvedin has signed up, but his departure for Iraq has been delayed because he needs to improve his English - the common language used by the coalition forces.

He has enrolled on an English course and hopes to reach a level which enables him to go to Iraq next month.

As a Muslim, how does he feel about potentially being in a situation where he has to fight fellow Muslims - some of whom claim they are involved in jihad?

"I'm not really interested in religion. If my contract says I have to fight, then I have to fight."


SEE ALSO:
Bosnia sends contingent to Iraq
01 Jun 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
30 Aug 05 |  Country profiles


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