“If there is another siege, I would rather die than eat ICAR.”
Traces and memorials of the 1992-95 siege of Sarajevo can still be seen throughout the city. The ICAR Canned Beef Monument is, however, somewhat different with its ironic touch.
The Serbian siege of Sarajevo led to what would become the longest running humanitarian airlift in history. Running between July 3rd, 1993 and January 9th, 1996 it even surpassed the two years of the 1948-49 Berlin airlift. 12,000 flights brought 160,000 tons of food and medicine to the people of Sarajevo but it was not always appreciated.
The ICAR canned beef soon became a symbol for the shortcomings of the humanitarian help. According to eyewitness reports collected by writer David Charles, sometimes the food was leftovers from the Vietnam war that expired 20 years earlier, and sometimes it was pork, an egregious oversight when half of the population receiving the aid were Muslims. Even cats and dogs were said not to eat it. After the war the “Grateful Citizens of Sarajevo” thanked the international community through this golden, meter tall can of ICAR beef.
Something other than food and medicine Sarajevo was in dire need of during the fighting was weapons. But because of the international weapon’s embargo put on the belligerents, they had to turn to Colombian drug cartels and smuggle the weapons into the city illegally. Because of this, some people say that they did more to save Sarajevo than the UN and that they should get a monument on their own.