The Center for Bosnian Studies at Fontbonne University has announced that András Riedlmayer is the recipient of the Civic Courage Award for 2023.
“Few individuals will be remembered for their unwavering commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo during the 1990s war like András Riedlmayer,” was conveyed at the gathering.
This proven friend of our country is an honorary member of BHAAAS, and we are proud of his contribution which is not only in preserving and promoting cultural heritage, but also in building bridges between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the world.
András’s commitment to preserving the cultural heritage in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina operated on various levels: he documented the destruction of manuscript libraries, mosques, bridges, Sufi lodges, churches, and other cultural heritage that was intentionally targeted by Serbian, and later Croatian nationalists.
Together with his colleagues Dr. Amila Buturović and Dr. Irvin C. Schick, Riedlmayer initiated the process of restoring the burned manuscripts of the Sarajevo Oriental Institute by founding the Bosnian Manuscript Ingathering Project. In the bombing, 5,263 bound manuscripts in various languages were lost. The Project team reached out to scholars worldwide who might have conducted research at the Institute before its destruction. These efforts were partially successful as they managed to retrieve microfilms of some manuscripts, which they digitized and presented to the Oriental Institute in 2008.
As an expert who spent 25 years of his life documenting the destruction of cultural heritage during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, he testified as an expert witness before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the trials of 14 officials from Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, including former Serbian president Slobodan Milošević, accused of war crimes in BiH and Kosovo.
Born in 1947 in Budapest, Riedlmayer was educated in Germany, the USA, and Turkey. He graduated from the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and the School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. As a Fulbright scholar in the 1970s, he traveled extensively in the Middle East and the Balkans, researching in archives and libraries of manuscripts. He published scientific articles on Ottoman history and culture, Balkan heritage, and Islamic architecture. Since 1985, he headed the Documentation Center for Islamic Art and Architecture of the Aga Khan Program at Harvard University’s Fine Arts Library. In addition, he was president of the Association of Turkish Studies, chair of the Middle East Librarians Association Committee for Iraqi Libraries, and co-founder and editor of the International Justice Watch.
On one occasion he said, “If you really want to make a librarian mad, burn down a library.”
Three years ago, he retired, but he remains an inspiration for all those who fight for the rights of material heritage to go hand in hand with the struggle for cultural and biological survival. The responsibility to fulfill this is one we should all share, inspired by Mr. Riedlmayer and his not only civic courage but also dedication to Bosnia and Herzegovina.