22 years ago, in July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim boys and men were brutally murdered by Serbian forces in the city of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Today, we remember the victims of the massacre.
During the Bosnian war, that lasted from 1992 until 1995, Srebrenica was declared a safe area. In the spring of 1993, the city was placed under protection of the UN peacekeeping units that mostly consisted of Dutch army officers. The people in Srebrenica were promised to be protected from the cruelties of the war. However, on July 6th Serbian forces invaded Srebrenica and between July 11th and July 22nd the execution of Bosniak men and boys took place. Thousands of men were executed and buried in mass graves, children were killed before their mothers’ eyes, women were raped and left without fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. “These were truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history,” as said by Fouad Riad, International Criminal Tribunal Judge. Recent research revealed that the USA and Britain knew six weeks before the massacre took place that the enclave would fall. The world stood by and watched the biggest manslaughter after WWII on European soil take place.
Bosniaks don’t only remember the war and honor its victims on July 11th, but they do it throughout the whole year. For instance, the victims of the Srebrenica genocide in particular get remembered when Bosniaks visit the village Potočari in the Srebrenica municipality, where the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Cemetery is located. But nonetheless July 11th is an important day for us. We remember the victims of the massacre in a couple of ways. First of all, Srebrenica is in the Bosnian news a couple of days prior to July 11th. The news goes from letting us know how many new bodies have been found and identified to images and videos of new graves being dug up to burry those bodies. Also, every year thousands of people visit Srebrenica on July 11th to commemorate the victims of the genocide. Since 2005 in Bosnia the “Marš Mira” (March of Peace) is being organized in which thousands of Bosnians and other people partake. The participants walk for a couple of days through the country to Potočari. The participants arrive a day prior to the mass funeral on July 11th when the new found bodies of the massacre are buried. Since the war has forced a lot of people to flee the country and settle elsewhere, the Srebrenica Massacre is also being commemorated all over the world by Bosniaks. From The Hague to Toronto, Bosniaks gather together to honor those who died for their country. People who cannot go to Srebrenica usually spend the day at home watching the ceremony on television. Some of us also show solidarity and honour the victims by wearing the Flower of Srebrenica on our clothes. The green colour of the flower symbolises hope, the white colour symbolises innocence and the 11 petals represent July 11th.
The genocide in Srebrenica is well-documented, but somehow unknown and even forgotten. It’s difficult to understand how the Bosnian war doesn’t make it to history classes. The war has left emotional scars on its survivors and two decades after it ended the country still hasn’t healed from it. For most people a war is something that is far away, something that cannot come close to them. But today, we need to remember that it is closer to us than we’d like to admit. We need to remember the atrocity and injustice Bosniaks faced only 22 years ago. We need to remember that the western world turned its back and failed to protect innocent lives. Today we honour the victims of the Srebrenica Massacre, but maybe this can also be the start to remember the victims of the Bosnian war in the whole country, and victims of wars all over the world.
This article is written by Medina Turcinovic.