I Lost Two Uncles in the Srebrenica Massacre: One of Them is Still Not Found

11th of July. A sad day every year. The day of national mourning in Bosnia and Herzegovina, for what has happened in 1995 in Srebrenica. This is the summer that the world had failed humanity once again. 8372. The number that every Bosnian knows. 8372 people have been killed over the course of 3 days. It only took 3 days.

I myself am from the village Rakovcani, near a little town called Prijedor. Fairly unknown to the world, but such an important part of my country’s history. Prijedor is the Auschwitz of Bosnia. Thousands of people have passed through Omarska, Keraterm, Trnopolje and other concentration camps in 1992. I have heard so many stories over the past 20 years.

I was born in Belgium in 1994, after my parents had fled their country from the terror and moved here. I can only imagine the pain and suffering that they have been through. My father was held prison in Trnopolje. I can never forget the stories he told me. I can’t forget the fact that I have been named after one of his best friends who was killed for being Muslim. I can’t forget that I didn’t have the chance to meet my father’s brothers, family and friends. I’m having difficulty writing this, all in tears. I’m having difficulty, but what about the people who have really been through this? What about my father?

Every year, as they do in Srebrenica on the 11th of July, we remember the victims of Prijedor on the 20th. Every year, we bury hundreds of people. But the day I will never forget is the day we buried one of my two uncles a few years back. Notice as I say “one”. Why only one? Because the other one is still missing. They still haven’t found his body, because the Serbian troops tried to hide their crimes and bury the bodies in mass graves so no one could ever find them. They tried to hide the fact that they have committed a genocide, which they keep denying even now.

But let’s go back to that day. The day of the burial was one of the most difficult days in my life. As we were carrying my uncle’s casket, I looked at my father. I hadn’t cried all day. I wanted to be strong for my whole family. But honestly, I was hoping to see my father cry, so that I could cry with him. But he didn’t, at least not in front of us. He hasn’t told me much about what he has been through in Trnopolje. I know that he lost so many people, that it could only leave a man broken. Broken, but stronger than ever. Honestly, he’s the man I look up to the most. Mostly because of what other people have told me about him. He once organized a football tournament so that he could raise money for the wife and kids of his late friend Ermin, the one I was named after.

I didn’t really know what to write when I started this, this was me speaking from the heart. How can you kill someone for being different? For believing in something else? I hope that this part of history won’t ever repeat itself. I ask Allah to grant paradise to all the victims of the Bosnian genocide, and to stand with the people going through this now.

“And do not say about those who are killed in the way of Allah , “They are dead.” Rather, they are alive, but you perceive [it] not.” Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 154

Written by Ermin Crljenković

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Born in Belgium, with Bosnian roots. A student Applied Economics at the University of Antwerp and a football fanatic who loves to travel.