The past week marked the first UK memorial service for the Srebrenica genocide where people gathered to offer their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.
Before I witter on, let’s put things into context and begin with a short history lesson…
During the Balkans conflict of 1992-1995, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica was declared a UN Safe Area in 1993, under the watch of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).
In July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town.
Yeah, not so much of a UN Safe Area afterall…
The following days witnessed the systematic massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys and the forced removal of 30,000 Muslim women and girls including thousands of them brutally tortured and raped.
It was the greatest atrocity on European soil since World War Two.
Eighteen years on, the legacy of Srebrenica and the conflict of the 1990s still haunts Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Victims remain unidentified despite the work of International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and the perpetrators of these crimes remain at large.
Since the end of the fighting, only 60 cases of wartime sexual violence have been prosecuted, despite some estimates suggesting that up to 50,000 women were raped in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the violence.
The evil and barbarism of the genocide is rooted deep within Bosnia as every year remains of victims from Srebrenica and other atrocities are discovered. This opens up wounds that do not want to be revisited by families as the painful process of identification begins.
But what adds even more salt to the wound is when President
Milorad Dodik has repeatedly denied that what happened in Srebrenica constituted genocide. Despite the fact it has been established as such at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court.
Maybe he needed reminding of the definition of genocide:
“The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group”
Now tell me how the forceful killing of 8,000 Muslims alone does not fit this definition?
In 1999, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan wrote:
“Through error, misjudgment and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to help save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder.”
We may have marked a memorial service, taken part in a peace march, but Srebrenica is still scarred with the injustice and suffering of its people.
Children are educated separately depending on their ethnicity, politicians cannot put their ethnic agendas aside and work as a nation thus Srebrencia and Herzegovina are still not part of the EU or NATO.
The legacy of Srebrenica is a reminder of the evil, of the inhumanity, of the living definition of ethnic cleansing. How far one can go when motivated by racial hatred.
I hold the victims, families, loved ones, soil and stone, all those who witnessed the barbarism of evil deep in my prayers and call for the justice of Srebrencia… never again will humanity fail…
Have we become that cold that it is only European soil where blood shed is valued?
May we learn the lessons of the past, and not find ourselves reading the same note from the UN, apologising for their incapabilities.
If a note of apology is not good enough to excuse one from a parking ticket, then by no means is it good enough in the face of a raped, tortured, widowed mother who has watched her husband and son killed, lost her family and livelihood.
May we stand tall and pledge:
Never again to my my brothers and sisters in Gaza
Never again to my aunties and uncles in Somalia
Never again to my friends and neighbours in Burma
Never again to my mums and dads wherever they face war, conflict, oppression, famine, torture, deprivation or denial of human rights.
HUMANITY WILL NOT FAIL YOU
We pledge never again.
Written by Sameera Rafiq