Kemal was 24 years old when his village, Kevljani, in northern Bosnia, was attacked by the Serbian army. Imprisoned with his brother and other Muslims for months on end, in various camps, including the infamous Omarska concentration camp, he witnessed the genocide in progress: torture, deprivation of freedom and food, humiliation, with death as a daily occurrence. Worst of all, Kemal and his brother knew their executioners personally; they had been their neighbours, people they had met every day. The incomprehension reached its nadir when Kemal recognised one of his school teachers as one of those torturing prisoners.
Following a TV report denouncing the atrocities in the Omarska camp and in the face of the ensuing international pressure, the Serbs released their prisoners and Kemal fled to England. Though safe, his past continued to haunt him and he harboured a deep hatred of his torturers. His feelings isolated him and prevented him from leading the peaceful life he aspired to. Then one day, he decides to seek help and becomes one of the few to take advantage of the psychological help on offer. There he discovers his path: to work towards building peace by following the teachings of Nelson Mandela, a peace he decides to build, not with his friends but with his former enemies.
In 2008, Kemal rediscovered a certain sense of serenity. One morning, he became fully aware of his status; he was no longer a victim, he was a survivor. That day, Kemal decided to become a committed, forward-looking citizen.
It is this attitude that allows Kemal to reconnect with the other. The reflection that he has carried out about who he is makes him realise that he no longer needs to find the cause, the fault, the culprit. Now, he looks to the future, with the wisdom of a man of experience.
Driven by this vision of the future, he creates the Most MIRA - Bridge for Peace association in England. It works to educate young people in the arts, build friendships despite ethnic differences and celebrate diversity in the Prijedor region of northern Bosnia. Step by step, with small gestures of reconciliation, uniting those around him, Kemal restores the bonds between people.
The initiatives are concrete: young people get together around artistic activities and get to know each other, far from family histories, far from the conflicts inherited from their parents. Today, a cultural centre is under construction. The symbolism is strong: this centre is literally built on the ruins of a house located on the border between his Muslim village and the neighbouring Christian village.
The Peace Centre will open in September 2021 and Kemal nurtures an unwavering dedication to building the peace he aspires to for his son.
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