No one can understand Syrians as much as Bosnians do, the son of independent Bosnia's first president said during his visit Wednesday to a refugee camp in Turkey.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the country's tripartite presidency, compared the wars that tore apart Bosnians' and Syrians' lives during his visit to a refugee camp in Harran, the southeastern Şanlıurfa province.
Following the breakup of Yugoslavia and Bosnia's independence, Bosnia's capital, Sarajevo, came under attack from Bosnian Serb militias backed by the Yugoslav army, in what became the longest siege in modern history.
Between April 1992 and December 1995, an estimated 100,000 people were killed and 2.2 million displaced in Bosnia. Up to 50,000 women, mostly Bosniak, were raped.
"Nobody can understand you as much as the Bosnians do. When we first saw the pictures of grief and pain from Syria, it took us back to our pain and our sorrow," he said.
"Half of our people were driven from their homes by force. All the houses we lived in were bombed and damaged. The men stayed in the city to defend it, while women and children became refugees," he added.
"Thank goodness our war ended. Your war will also end and you will live in freedom again," he said.
Izetbegovic was welcomed by a folk dance performance by Syrian children.
Later, Izetbegovic handed out gifts to the children and received a painting of his late father, the eminent statesman Alija Izetbegovic.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests. Since then, more than 250,000 people have been killed and over 10 million displaced, according to the U.N.
According to official statistics, Turkey currently hosts more than 3.4 million Syrians who have fled north since the beginning of the civil war.
Ankara calculates it has spent at least $30 billion sheltering and providing for these guests.
Bosnia's Izetbegovic arrived in Turkey to attend an event in Ankara Monday to mark the 14th anniversary of the death of his father.
Alija Izetbegovic, who declared Bosnian independence from Yugoslavia in February 1992, was a key figure for modern Muslims.
He came to international prominence during Bosnian's 1992-1995 war and is credited with forging a new state for Bosniaks, earning him the epithet "the Wise King."