The Twentieth Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 13 Jul 2015
In general, twenty years are thought to be a long time. For those who lost their loved ones in Srebrenica, however, twenty years were equivalent to one day. It was only yesterday.
On Saturday, 11 July 2015, the Twentieth Anniversary Ceremony was held at Potočari, Srebrenica, Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Potočari [pronounced “pot – oh – chah – ree”], an industrial area, located outskirts of the Srebrenica municipality, was the place the massacre was committed in July 1995, during the War in Bosnia. As of July, 2015, the deaths of 8,372 people in that genocide were confirmed, according to Dnevni Avaz Special with the name list of the victims.
The Ceremony was supposed to begin in the late in the morning. It is Bosnia here; everything goes slowly, or “plako” in the Bosnian language. Nonetheless, by following the local police’s advice, we, Bosnian driver and I, arrived at Potočari much earlier, around 6:40 a.m. There were, however, already thousands of people waiting outside the graveyard, the very site of the genocide. More people were continuously arriving into the main street outside the site by buses and cars. Many of them were organized groups, region by region. Then, at about 10 a.m. these people were allowed to enter the Cemetery. It is estimated between 100,000 – 150,000 people (or perhaps more) – probably the largest number of the participants ever in the Srebrenica Genocide Annual Ceremony – attended the Ceremony.
Thousands of grave stones overwhelmed the visitors in the Cemetery. The author visited this site twice before, in 2008 and in 2012. More graves were seen every time he visited Potočari. This year, three years after his last visit to Potočari, far more graves were seen there.
- The Indispensable Nature of the Annual Ceremony in Srebrenica
The indispensable nature of this Annual Ceremony seems to have at least two (or perhaps more) main purposes for the attendees of the Ceremony, most of whom are Bosniaks. These two purposes are not separated; they are interwoven.
First: To share the deep grief of the Srebrenica Genocide with their fellow Bosniaks and those who may be concerned. Bosniaks appreciate those who try to understand the tragedy in Srebrenica. They share these unforgettable deep sorrows with other people who are compassionate. The annual ceremony at Potočari is the very opportunity for that.
Second: To confirm their identity and unity of Bosniaks by using this annual ceremony as an essential opportunity. The tragedy such as the Srebrenica Genocide has provided Bosniaks with an opportunity to confirm their identity and unity. This annual ceremony is the opportunity for them to confirm that they are the “Bosniaks.” Regardless of various kinds of self-perceptions and self-interpretations as Bosniaks, they confirm their identity as Bosniaks. This confirmation is not a matter of documentation or evidence. This process of the self-identification is highly an emotional one that stems from their soul, spirit, or blood. They identity that they are the Bosniaks, meaning that they are neither any other people in Bosnia, nor any other kind people in the world. Their confirmation of the identity leads to their unity as a people. The message contained in this unity may be this: “You and I are very much different, but one thing is common, which is that both of us are ‘Bosniaks’.”
For more discussions on Bosniaks, visit Bosniaks – Wikipedia
- Three Parties, Three Attitudes over “Srebrenica”
Bosniaks are in deep sorrows over the Srebrenica Genocide. As mentioned above, twenty years as the physical time have nothing to do with those who lost their loved ones. Their tragedy is historic in the contemporary age, and their sorrows are unforgettable. Their sorrows and wounds will surely be transferred from the contemporary generation to the proceeding generations for centuries.
- Bosnian Serbs
On the other hand, Bosnian Serbs have attempted either to deny or not to recognize the Srebrenica Genocide. For a nation, especially of its authorities or government, to recognize that they are the victims of something is less difficult, but to recognize that they are offenders or perpetrators of something is extremely difficult. They maintain the belief that the nation’s history should be filled with glories so that no scars should be found in their history. Regarding the case of Srebrenica, Bosnian Serbs are also no exception for that belief.
The president of the Serb-run part of Bosnia claimed Saturday that the Srebrenica genocide was a “lie”, a week ahead the 20th anniversary of the slaughter.
Speaking at a commemoration for Serbs killed in villages around Srebrenica during Bosnia’s bloody civil war, Milorad Dodik denounced a British bid to pass a United Nations resolution on the genocidal killing of the area’s male Muslim population in 1995.
- Serbs in Serbia
It seems that Serbs in Serbia are more empathetic for Bosniaks of the Srebrenica Genocide. Three examples are shown as follows:
The Serbian Parliament’s recognition of “Srebrenica”:
The Serbian Parliament has officially condemned the 1995 massacre of thousands of Muslim men and boys in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.
The resolution was approved by a narrow majority, with 127 out of 250 lawmakers voting in favor of issuing an apology to victims.
A statement on the Web site of the Serbian government read: “The Srebrenica Declaration sharply condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian population in Srebrenica in July 1995, expresses condolences to families of victims and extends apologies to them for lack of measures that could have prevented the tragedy.
Serbian Prime Minister Alekandar Vučić’s Two Surprising Moves:
One of his surprising moves were his decision to attend the 20th Anniversary Ceremony of the Srebrenica Genocide. He could know that this decision could expose himself in front of a huge number of the Bosniak public who hated Serbs. This decision itself was highly risky.
Another surprising move of the Serbian PM was that he entered into the crowd of the Bosniak participants. The incident happened when Vučić’ was about to leave the site. His vehicle was waiting behind the audience of more than one hundred thousand who hated him. (Unlike many other cars parking in the street in front of the entrance of the Cemetery, his vehicle was parking behind the crowd of thousands of people who hated Serbs.) To reach his vehicle up on the hill behind the Ceremony participants, he needed to go through these people. This was, however, an unacceptable move in terms of the security viewpoint. It was beyond one’s understanding on security why he attempted to go through these people who hated him, or who perhaps wanted to kill him. In fact, some of them were shouting, “Kill him! Kill him!”
Nonetheless, he went into the crowd of these Bosniaks who lost their loved ones. In other words, regardless of the high risk about his security, he decided to enter into the crowd who hated him. Now, everyone could foretell what would happen to him. As it could be foreseen, and as international mass media reported, some of the mobs physically attacked him. (See these YouTube videos Srebrenica: Serb PM Vucic flees ceremony – BBC News)
Although it was unknown (except for him) why Vučić decided to do as mentioned above, it was possible to interpret his two surprising moves that he might have thought that he was ready to be killed at the Genocide site as a sign of the apology for Bosniaks on behalf of the whole Serbs. But this interpretation is nothing but a speculation. Only he knows the reason why of his unfathomable decisions.
Serbs in Serbia commemorate the victims of Srebrenica despite the police ban: “Hundreds of people defied a police ban Friday night [10 July 2015] to commemorate the anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Serbia’s police feared there would be unrest at the event honouring the victims of the massacre. But no major incidents were reported.”
- Four Concluding Comments
Even if only 20.6% of Serbian citizens approved their Parliament’s resolution on the Srebrenica Genocide, and even if only a few hundred of Serbs among the seven million Serbian population showed their sympathy to Bosianks for the Srebrenica Genocide, it was still something to be considered.
It is not just a gap that lies between Bosniaks and Serbs. It is literarily an unmeasurably deep abyss between them because of the untold sorrows and hatred. Nonetheless, a Bosniak, the author’s driver who took the author to Srebrenica, said, “I am also one of those who had horrible experience during the War in Bosnia. We remember and never forget what happened to us. However, that is not enough. We look forward to the future as well.”
It is unwise, unfair, and misleading to understand this tragedy from the viewpoint of black and white, the good guys and the bad guys. Note that many Bosnian Serbs were reportedly also killed in and around Srebrenica, for instance. That was what the War in Bosnia, which had produced no winners. Besides, the information disseminated to the international public was highly distorted by some people. Thus, there are still controversial and/or unclear issues even in the case of Srebrenica.
If the slogan twenty years ago was “To save one Serb’s life, kill one hundred Bosianiks”, the slogan from now on should be like this: “To save one Serb’s life, one hundred Bosniaks cooperate. To save one Bosniak’s life, one hundred Serbs cooperate.” The current trending seems to be against this new slogan. But wait. Time will tell. Let us believe that one day the new slogan will become the reality.
Satoshi Ashikaga, having worked as researcher, development program/project officer, legal protection/humanitarian assistance officer, human rights monitor-negotiator, managing-editor, and more, prefers a peaceful and prudent life, especially that in communion with nature. His previous work experiences, including those in war-zones and war-torn zones, remind him of the invaluableness of peace. His interest and/or expertise includes international affairs, international law, jurisprudence, economic and business affairs, project/operations or organizational management, geography, history, the environmental/ecological issues, visual/audio documentation of nature and culture, and more. Being a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, he is currently compiling This Week in History on TMS.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jul 2015.
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