PLEDGE FOR THE SREBRENICA GENOCIDE

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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

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PALESTINE: THE UGLY TRUTH

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The kidnapping and killing of three young Israeli boys (whom Palestinians believed to be settlers) and the death of a Palestinian teenager have caused a national outcry and thought to have endangered any form of Palestinian-Israeli relations.

But what is even more astonishing is the behavior of the world leaders.

The rightful saints who stand for justice and peace aka David Cameron and Barack Obama publicly stated the condemnation of the deaths of three Israelis.

Yet these rightful saints remained largely unmoved by the shooting of two unarmed Palestinian boys, the killing of at least six civilians since Israel began searching for the kidnappers and the bombing and destruction of Palestinian homes and livelihoods in a ‘revenge’ attack by Israeli troops.

Palestinian minors accounted for some 25% of the 5,000 Palestinian deaths in the first (1987) and second (2000) intifadas. According to the Israeli Human Rights group B’Tselem, some 84 Palestinian minors and 19 women were killed by Israeli forces in the five years up to May 2014, compared with 10 Israeli civilians. Last year the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child estimated that 7,000 children, mainly aged from 12 to 17 but some as young as nine, have been arrested, interrogated and detained between 2002 and 2012 – an average of two per day.

However, my friends I use these statistics lightly as there are thousands more men women and children who have been brutally tortured, raped, unfairly imprisoned, separated from their families and killed.

Let’s be reminded that it is not only the men on the front line that bare the brunt of this conflict.

The injustice faced cannot be expressed in this blog (from a woman sat comfortably in a country knowing she has food, water, shelter, security, family, rights and limited media coverage) but what I am attempting is to reflect on the recent events in Palestine.

During this reflection what I have found most astonishing was the value of life.

Tariq Abukhdeir a 15 year old Palestinian-American boy who was on a family vacation to Palestine was brutally beaten by Israelis to the point he fell unconscious.

This attack has received national coverage and a call for justice for the young boy.

However, Tariq’s experience occurs on a daily basis in Palestine and on many occasions has resulted in far worse.
Attacks on children have become the norm to the extent that Human Rights groups have reported that Palestinian children detained by Israeli occupation forces are routinely subjected to solitary confinement and other forms of mistreatment including rape threats, amounting to torture and those responsible are never held accountable.

I am not for a moment trying to say what happened to Tariq is trivial and should be ignored and forgotten. Any man to raise a hand on a child, is not a man in my eyes.

BUT I ASK:

How has one attack received generous media attention and the killings and mistreatment of thousands of Palestinians gone unheard.

Is a single American life valued more than the thousands of Palestinians in suffering?

Have the cries of those in despair without adequate means of survival fallen on deaf ears?

The killing and mistreatment of innocent civilians cannot be justified.

The rape of women and torture of children cannot be justified.

To forcefully separate a mother from her child, for her to watch her husband beaten to death, for her to hideaway her daughter so she is not raped and to be left with no home or shelter -Where is the justice in this? This has become the life of many Palestinians.

Wrong is wrong irrespective of race, colour, creed and nationality.

But if it takes one American child to be affected by this for the call to justice to be made, then so be it.

By Sameera Rafiq

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