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Why we all need to remember the Srebrenica genocide

By Admir Meskovic, July 2021

I was relatively young when the Bosnian war started, in 1992. When it became clear that something terrible was going to start, we moved to another place to live with grandpa and grandma. Not a single bomb exploded there during the four-year war.

Explosions in the neighbouring city were violent enough to be heard in that place, however. I was also close enough to occasionally hear the frightening sound of hostile tanks movement on the nearby hills.

There were regular power outages but also deliberate incidences of turning off the lights so that the hostile forces would not notice us.

Periodically they would transfer us to a safer territory in case of threat of hostile attacks (though we had to be always ready for such an event, sleeping in jeans because in such circumstances you wouldn’t have time to put them on).

I remember at the end of the war, five to ten children and women living in our house as refugees. Having this in mind, I can say that my war-childhood was quite normal when compared to most of my peers in Bosnia. 

The refugees I mentioned were from Eastern Bosnia – the wider region around Srebrenica. They were lucky to escape from the area before the genocide happened. The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims committed by units of the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS), in the area protected by the UN. 

There are frightening stories of those people who survived that hell. Not many, because few have survived. These kind of stories cannot be paraphrased, you have to hear directly from a person witnessing the horror.

This includes then seven-year old boy Fahrudin who accidentally survived the mass execution of civilians from his village, including his father. Fahrudin was wounded in his arm and leg, and was saved by the driver who was driving the corpses to the location of the mass grave. The driver noticed that something is moving in the mass of dead meat and brought the little boy to hospital.

The number of these mass graves is unknown. It is considered that corps were transferred to some sixteen mass graves and that some thousand people will never be found, because of the vows of silence of those who took part in the genocide and ethnic cleansing. They refuse to reveal the locations and most of the known mass graves were discovered accidentally or via satellite scanning from USA. There was a system of primary, secondary and tertiary graves – so it is not uncommon that different parts of the same body were found in totally different locations. Some victims were buried in a memorial centre with only one piece of body found, while others are still hidden somewhere else. Thanks to a modern DNA analysis it is possible to identify them. 

Twenty-five years after, the extremist ideology that led to genocide and ethnic cleansing is still live and they are regularly marching through Srebrenica and other cities in their “military” suits. In some cases the streets and dormitories are now named after convicted war criminals which are celebrated as heroes by some people in one part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The driver who saved the young boy was not considered a hero, however. He suffered the consequences because of his "betrayal" during his life, while his funeral later was attended by only the closest relatives.

If we say that it is important to remember the Srebrenica genocide, we talk about something that happened in the past. For me, it is incomparably more tragic to know that the ideology which led to genocide is still live and active.