Kemal Pervanić

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Even though he spent seven months in two concentration camps, including the infamous Omarska, during the war in Bosnia, Kemal Pervanić says, “I am lucky because I survived. I don’t want my suffering to be in vain.”
Kemal founded Most Mira (Bridge of Peace). It was during a return visit to his native Prijedor in Bosnia that Kemal said he realized, “Kids born after the war do not know more than what their parents tell them.” He elaborates: “The violence that swept across the Prijedor municipality has left its mark, with a deeply divided community living in religiously segregated areas, unable to re-establish old friendships or make new ones across these fault lines, and struggling with high unemployment and a stagnant local economy. Children are being educated in a segregated system, with little opportunity to meet with children from other backgrounds in order to challenge the nationalistic assumptions surrounding them in their daily lives.”
He explains the organization’s response to the realities on the ground: “Most Mira’s approach to this crisis is to organize an art festival, using art as a means which bridges local ethno-religious rivalries. Arts cross the boundaries that divide these children, and through arts they can learn that diversity is something to celebrate and embrace, not be afraid of, and that working with the ‘other’ can be enriching and rewarding. This ultimately leads the beneficiaries to learn the values of mutual understanding, friendship and tolerance, the basic foundations of human rights.”
Since its founding, Most Mira has organized a total of three summer arts festivals for the youth of Prijedor. The most recent festival attracted 500 children from northwestern Bosnia. Kemal credits Most Mira’s strategy for the enthusiasm shown by the community: “Our strategy has been to quietly penetrate the society which is ridden with hate, fear and distrust among ordinary people, by introducing participatory methodology in our work with schools through the arts, which represent building blocks in reconstruction of lost trust. To openly confront local people about human rights violations would only cause suspicion of our motives. Our project has created the feeling of ownership among our beneficiaries, it has created the feeling of trust among their parents and the majority of their teachers, and it has begun to recreate the feeling of community.”
By Stephanie V. Grepo, Director, Capacity Building, ISHR, Columbia University
Kemal Pervanić
Kemal Pervanić
HRAP, 2012