1. Worst massacre in Europe since WWII
Srebrenica was the first ever UN safe area. Yet in July 1995 the worst atrocities in Europe since WWII occurred there. Over an 11-day period the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) slaughtered 8,000 Muslim fathers, sons and brothers and buried them in mass graves. They forcibly deported the women and children who were later subjected to sexual and physical violence. This highly organised brutal episode was part of the larger ethnic cleansing campaign during the Bosnian War (1992-1995) where between 20,000-50,000 women were imprisoned and raped in gyms, hotels, abandoned houses and concentration camps.
The International Court of Justice ruled that this massacre constituted genocide. Judge Fouad Riad, from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, said these were “truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”
2. The Context – Territorial Conflict between the Orthodox Serbs and the Muslim Bosnians (Bosniaks).
In the aftermath of WWII, 6 Balkan states including Bosnia-Herzegovina together formed the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia. After the collapse of Communism, different ethnic groups vied for independence. In the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, three groups fought over control: the Bosnian Muslims (44%), Orthodox Serbs (33%) and Catholic Croats (17%). Despite a referendum declaring Bosnia-Herzegovina an independent state that had gained international recognition, the Bosnian Serbs with outside support mobilised their military forces in order to create a land for ethnic Serbs only. War spread across the country along with ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks and Croatians. The massacre of Srebrenica was part of the war and became the predominant symbol of the conflict. It was after this brutal event NATO intervened and the war ended in 1995.
3. Why should we remember Srebrenica?
It has been twenty years and families are still searching for their loved ones’ bodies to give them a proper burial. It has been twenty years yet justice still has not been served to the victims. Only in the last few years has the Srebrenica massacre began to be memorialised in Europe.
In the words of a survivor:
“The work that Remembering Srebrenica is doing is of vital importance. We need to teach people about the genocide, particularly young people, so that they can learn to be tolerant and challenge hatred and prejudice where they see it.”
Nirha Efendic Genocide Survivor
For more information on attending a memorial and resources please visit this website.
Facts, figures and quotes were taken from:
For moving pictures see http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2015/07/20-years-since-the-srebrenica-massacre/398135/
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