The first President of the independent Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina Alija Izetbegovic died 16 years ago.
Alija Izetbegovic was one of the most significant politicians in the modern history of B&H. He participated in key political decisions for B&H during the 1990s. In one of his last interviews, Izetbegovic joked how sometimes it seems to him that his life lasts too long. Nevertheless, he had a life full of turbulence and dynamics.
Alija Izetbegovic was born on August 8th 1925 in Bosanski Samac, in a family of farmers who moved from Belgrade to that town in 1868. His family moved to Sarajevo in 1928. Interesting fact is that around the age of fifteen, under the influence of atheistic and communistic literature, Izetbegovic started wavering about religion. Prior to the beginning of the Second World War Yugoslavia had a strong communistic propaganda, which was partly a reaction to fascism that was in its darkest period at that time.
On suspicion of having had a hand in the establishment of Islamic newspaper Mudzahid, as well as for belonging to the organization Mladi muslimani (Young Muslims), Izetbegovic was arrested in 1946 and sentenced to three years in prison. After leaving prison, he started studying agriculture, and from 1954 he continues his studies at the Faculty of Law in Sarajevo which he completes within two years.
After graduation, Izetbegovic worked as a legal consultant for several Yugoslavian companies, and in 1970 he writes an Islamic declaration – a general discussion about politics and Islam. Precisely that study has often been taken as evidence of Izetbegovic’s political preference towards Islamic fundamentalism.
Due to the Islamic declaration, during the political process in 1983 he was charged with planning the creation of an Islamic state together with twelve Muslim intellectuals and sentenced to 14 years in prison. However, Izetbegovic did not serve his entire sentence and was released in 1988, after which he turned to active political career.
Together with Fikret Abdic, Adil Zulfikarpasic and several other politicians, Izetbegovic founded the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) in 1990. At the elections in 1990 for the assembly of the Federal Republic of B&H within the elections for a member of a seven-member Presidency of FR B&H, SDA won 35.85 percent and thereby the largest number of votes. Fikret Abdic won the first place at the presidential elections, but after the internal discussions within the party Abdic handed over the post of the President of the Presidency of the FR B&H to Izetbegovic.
During the war from 1992 to 1995, Izetbegovic attempted to maintain good relations both with the East and the West. He was exceptionally appreciated in political circles as an example of a tolerant and wise politician, and example of a modern democrat.
However, the attitudes towards Alija Izetbegovic’s political activities are still divided, but his experience and recognition in the world prove his value. After his death, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) was led by Sulejman Tihic, and the current Head of SDA is Alija’s son, Bakir Izetbegovic. Alija Izetbegovic reached a decision on withdrawal from political life in 2000. Three years later, on October 19th, Alija Izetbegovic died. He was buried at the Martyr Cemetery Kovaci in Sarajevo.