2013 — student runner-up
Born in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dijana Muminovic moved to America with her family in 1997 after the Bosnian war and grew up in Bowling Green, KY, where she stayed and earned a BA in photojournalism at Western Kentucky University. After college, Muminovic began exploring the stories of some of the 6,000 other Bosnian refugees living in Bowling Green. Just when she thought that the Bosnian war was becoming our past, she met the women who are still affected by it. They still wait for their loved ones to be found and identified from the many mass graves that still exist in Bosnia. Fueled by their desire to seek closure and her interest in helping them communicate their stories, she decided to return to her native Bosnia in 2010 to photograph the lingering effects of war – mass graves and the search for closure.
On July 11, 2011, Muminovic's work was exhibited in the US Congress Building for the 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.
Her work has been supported by the Ministry of Culture and Sports in Sarajevo, Zaka Khan Foundation New York, and the Bosnian Islamic Center in Kentucky. She has been awarded two grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her work was also recognized by the Hearst-National Competition in Photography. But her project wouldn’t have been possible without Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
During the summer of 2009 and 2010, she taught photojournalism at Western Kentucky University as part of the Dow Jones Workshop. In the summer of 2011, she had the honor to organize and host the American workshop, Truth With A Camera, in her hometown of Zenica with support from the city municipality, City Musem, Zenicablog and Q Radio of Zenica.
She is currently Master’s student in photojournalism at Ohio University for which she received a scholarship.
At the age of 12, I survived the Bosnian war hiding in basements, where I listened to the stories of slaughter. Since moving to America, I have met Bosnian Muslim women living in Kentucky, who still wait to find the bodies of their sons and husbands who were killed 20 years ago.
Their stories brought me back to Bosnia. In 2010, I accompanied researchers from the Missing Persons Institute (MPI), to Lake Perucac in the city of Visegrad. I was overwhelmed when I realized that thousands of bodies lay beneath the water. But I felt the necessity to document this in order to show why the women around the world wait for so long for their loved ones to be found.
Only in the last century we have seen genocides in Germany, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia and Guatemala. In 20 years, 500 different mass graves have been discovered in Bosnia. In this particular case, thousands may never find their loved ones.
The nearby dam in a predominantly Serbian town, on the border with Visegrad, began fixing the turbines which caused Lake Perucac to dry. The MPI began a massive search with hundreds of volunteers to find the missing bodies from 1992. Sadly, the lake was flooded before the search was completed. Another injustice was done upon those who not only lost their loved ones, but now lost hope of ever finding them. It felt as if the war that ended for me, was still going on for thousands of others, even two decades after.
From 1992 to 1995 during the Bosnian war, more than 30,000 people were killed, and of those, 3,000 were killed in Visegrad. Approximately 800 bodies were thrown in Lake Perucac.
I stood at the Lake Perucac, watching the water float over the areas people dug the ground just a day before. I thought about the women I met in Kentucky. I thought about those I watched with shovels in their hands, and I thought of all the Somali people who feel close to Bosnia because of this instance, knowing they all were waiting for a closure, and not knowing if they will ever find it.
In the next year, I will visit the hydropower station, as well as the identification for missing person offices. I will work with more closely with the MPI to gather in-depth statistics for a book about Lake Perucac. My work will once again be exhibited in the US Congress, Western Kentucky University and museums in Bosnia.
The story about Lake Perucac will serve as a grim example of genocide and show the mess it has left decades later. It is my hope the story will educate others to help promote this issue, only so to help bring peace to our communities.