On Saturday 6th April 2019 Iron Maiden’s lead singer Bruce Dickinson was in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina to receive the Honorary Citizenship of the Capital.
Following a unanimous vote the city council awarded the honour to Bruce for his significant contribution towards “the development and affirmation of Sarajevo, as well as to the relations among people based on solidarity, democracy and human rights.”
The citation relates to the extraordinary events of 1994 when Bruce and his band Skunkworks braved bullets and mortar fire to play an extraordinary free concert in the war-torn ruins of the still besieged city.
Presenting the award at a ceremony in Sarajevo City Hall, Mayor Abdulah Skaka said:
“The arrival of Mr Dickinson in Sarajevo in 1994 was one of those moments that made us in Sarajevo realise that we will survive, that the city of Sarajevo will survive, that Bosnia-Herzegovina will survive.”
Bruce and the band risked their lives to get in to Sarajevo despite the daily bombardment and continuous sniper fire tormenting the civilian population.
UNICEF reported that at least 40% of the of the estimated 65,000 to 80,000 children in the city had been directly shot at by snipers during the siege which had been going on for two years.
The band made the treacherous journey in the back of an unarmoured truck over a 7000-foot mountain in total darkness and then down into ‘sniper alley’ which had to be crossed to reach the city centre. Passing through a landscape of semi-demolished houses and bullet riddled vehicles they made it through and performed their legendary free concert the following night to an amazed audience of young rock fans.
At the time the city was down to three days’ supply of food and fuel. As Bruce later wrote in his autobiography “The gig was immense, intense and probably the biggest show in the world at that moment for the audience and us.”
It is a tale of danger and some recklessness but also of incredible fortitude and bravery of a population determined that their spirit and humanity would not be destroyed by a senseless war.
Bruce received the award on Sarajevo Day, which marks the city’s 1945 liberation during World War II and the start in 1992 of the Bosnian Serb siege that killed more than 11,000 people, including 1,600 children.
Accepting the award in person, Bruce said that it was great that his visit 25 years ago “still means this much to people to give me this symbolic award.”
He went on to say “while this is a great honour, I think that this award belongs equally to the people of Sarajevo who are still here.”
Dickinson, who walked through the city centre greeting people and signing autographs, said:
“It’s a great honour to be given the honorary citizenship of Sarajevo.”
“In a world where things only last for about five seconds on social media… people are still remembering it. That’s really quite something.
“This is a brilliant day, a lovely day and it’s great to be back.”
A documentary “Scream for me Sarajevo” about the incredible events surrounding the concert and its importance to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina is available to buy on Blu-Ray and DVD.