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Thousands gather in Srebrenica to mark genocide of Muslim men and boys

29th Jul 2022
Thousands gather in Srebrenica to mark genocide of Muslim men and boys

Bosniak Muslim relatives mourn near the grave of a family member who was among the newly identified 50 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide, in Potočari, Bosnia and Herzegovina. (Credit: Samır Jordamovıc/Anadolu Agency)

Nadine Osman

Thousands of Bosnian and international mourners descended on Srebrenica on July 11 to commemorate the anniversary of Europe’s sole genocide post World War II and to attend the funeral of 50 recently identified victims.

Twenty-seven years after their brutal murders, the remains of 47 Bosniak Muslim men and three teenage boys were laid to rest in a memorial cemetery at the entrance to Srebrenica, joining more than 6,600 other massacre victims already reburied there.

The Srebrenica killings were the bloody crescendo of Bosnia’s 1992–95 war, which began after the collapse of Yugoslavia sparked ethnic fervour and nationalist aspirations that pitted Bosnian Serbs against Croats and Bosniaks.
Leading political figures across the world, including the Turkish President and the first lady of Turkey, commemorated the genocide victims.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that Turkey provides all the necessary support for the security and prosperity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “Our pain is fresh even though more than a quarter of a century has passed since the genocide.

Turkey continues to support Bosnia and Herzegovina with all its capacities,” said Erdoğan. Emine Erdoğan, the first lady of Turkey, said humanity, conscience, and compassion were buried in Srebrenica 27 years ago. “We will never forget the cries of Bosniak mothers or the children who watched the murderous expulsion of their fathers.”

In July 1995, at least 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica were separated by Serb troops from their wives, mothers, and sisters. They were chased through the woods around the eastern town and killed by those forces.

The perpetrators buried their victims’ bodies in hastily made mass graves. Eventually, they dug up the graves with bulldozers and scattered them among other burial sites to conceal the evidence. During the process, the remains were dismembered by bulldozers to the extent that body parts are still being discovered in mass graves around Srebrenica and pieced together and identified by DNA analysis.

When the remains are identified, they are returned to their relatives and reburied in the Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery, just outside Srebrenica, each July 11 – the anniversary of the day the killing began in 1995.

Idriz Mustafić was in Srebrenica to bury the partial remains of his son, Salim, who was only 16 years old when he was killed during the July 1995 massacre. “My older son, Enis, was also killed; we buried him in 2005. Now I am burying Salim,” Mustafić said.

“[Forensic experts] have not found his skull, [but] my wife got cancer and had to undergo surgery. We just couldn’t wait any longer to bury the bones that we found, to at least know where their graves are,” he added.

Mana Ademović, who lost her husband and many other male relatives in the massacre, attended the commemoration in Srebrenica. Ademović found her husband’s partial remains and reburied him years ago but said she “must be in Srebrenica every July 11”.

“It is easier when you have a grave to visit, no matter how many bones are buried inside,” she said, sitting among the graves at the vast and still-expanding memorial cemetery, hugging her husband’s white marble headstone.

But “it is impossible to describe how one feels while imagining how [massacre victims] suffered” before their death, she added.

So far, the remains of more than 6,600 people have been found and buried in the cemetery. In the two previous years, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only a relatively small number of survivors were allowed to attend the annual commemoration service and collective funeral of the victims in Srebrenica.

But with restrictions lifted, tens of thousands attended this year, including numerous international diplomats and dignitaries.

The Srebrenica killings were the only episode of the Bosnian war to be legally defined as genocide.
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadžić and his military commander, Ratko Mladić, were both convicted of and sentenced for genocide in Srebrenica by a special UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

Tribunal and courts in the Balkans have sentenced close to 50 Bosnian Serb wartime officials to more than 700 years in prison for the Srebrenica killings. Bosnian Serb leaders, however, continue to minimise and deny the massacre and celebrate Karadžić and Mladić as martyrs.

 

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