Alija Izetbegovic, Bosnia-first Herzegovina’s president, was a Bosnian activist who oversaw the country during one of its deadliest periods. He relocated to Sarajevo, which eventually became the core of his political activity, after being born into an aristocratic but destitute family. His political growth was on the rise after he created the ‘Party of Democratic Action’ and was elected President of the country, after being a member of various political organizations. However, what followed was a period of great political turbulence, culminating in the disintegration of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Despite many peace efforts, he was unable to cease a four-year bloodbath between the various ethnic groups. This mild-mannered Muslim leader fought for the survival of his own country for half of his presidency. Later, after being betrayed by other Muslim leaders and facing the scorn of western leaders, he was also blamed for the civil war that engulfed the Balkans. Nonetheless, the thousands of mourners who attended his funeral and the sympathy letters that entered Bosnia from the leaders of nearly 80 nations after his death attest to the fact that he was one of the world’s most loved and respected European Muslim leaders.
Childhood and Adolescence
Izetbegovic was born on August 8, 1925, in Bosanki Samac, Bosnia and Herzegovina, to an accountant father and a prominent family. After Serbia gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, he was descended from Slavic Ottoman aristocrats who fled to Bosnia.
The following year, Izetbegovic relocated to Sarajevo and attended Sarajevo Law School.
In 1940, at the age of fifteen, he co-founded Mladi Muslimani (Young Muslims), an organization that assisted refugees during World War II.
Career if Alija Izetbegovic
When the Mladi Muslimani were forced to choose between the SS Handschar (a Nazi German SS Mountain Division that included Bosniaks) and the Partisans (a Communist resistance organization led by Josip Broz Tito), Izetbegovic voted for the SS division.
After the war, he was caught in 1946 and sentenced to three years in prison for his actions during the conflict.
He received a law degree from Sarajevo University after his release and remained active in politics.
Izetbegovic released a ‘Islamic Declaration’ manifesto in the 1970s, in which he outlined his ideas on the relationship between Islam, society, and the state. The authorities saw this manifesto as a call to impose sharia law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it was prohibited from being published.
The pronouncements are still controversial, and opponents of Izetbegovic frequently take sections from them as an open invitation to Islamic fanaticism. All of the charges were refuted by Izetbegovic.
In 1980, Izetbegovic published one of his most well-known writings, ‘Islam between East and West.’
Izetbegovic and his fellow Bosniak activists were charged in 1983 with engaging in hostile acts, distributing hostile propaganda, and attending the Muslim Congress in Iran. They were given a fourteen-year prison sentence.
The Bosnian Supreme Court, however, lowered Izetbegovic’s sentence to twelve years after repeated pleas from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Helsinki Watch.
He was pardoned and released after five years in 1988, despite the fact that his imprisonment had taken a toll on his health.
Izetbegovic and other Bosnian activists founded the ‘Party of Democratic Action’ (PDA) in 1989. Following this, ethnic groups in Bosnia, such as Serbs and Croats, formed their own ethnic parties.
Alija Izetbegovic’s Democratic Action Party gained the majority of seats in the subsequent general election, and Alija Izetbegovic was elected President of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia (independent provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo) broke up the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1991, with Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, and Macedonia proclaiming independence. It was followed by a violent war that lasted until 1994, despite Izetbegovic’s several attempts at peace.
Because of Izetbegovic’s excellent ties with Iran, the latter provided Bosnians with weaponry and ammunition. Muslims who were recruited by Iran entered Bosnia and Herzegovina to attack Serbs and Croats.
The international community persuaded Izetbegovic and his opponents to attend peace talks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base outside Dayton, Ohio, in 1995. They decided to terminate the fighting there, with the NATO peacekeeping team in charge of preserving the cease-fire in place. Izetbegovic was elected to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency as a Member President.
His party’s power dwindled after the international community dispatched a High Representative to oversee the state’s operations. It had more authority than the presidents.
Izetbegovic announced his retirement in October 2000, at the age of 74, due to ill health.
Personal History and Legacy
Izetbegovic married four times; his first wife, with whom he had one son and two daughters, lives in Turkey. He married Melika and Amira according to Sharia law. His fourth wife’s name was never divulged to the public.
Izetbegovic died of heart illness on October 19, 2003, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Estimated Net Worth
Alija is one of the wealthiest politicians and one of the most well-known. Alija Izetbegovic’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.