Four mass graves discovered in Srebrenica as survivors retrace their footsteps
Nineteen years after the massacre, the family of Beganović have buried their youngest member Senad, aged 14. He was killed along with his father, Ramo, in the genocide committed by the Bosnian Serb military forces against Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. The body of this 14-year-old boy was found amid four mass graves in eastern Bosnia – the first of his body parts in 2000, others in 2007, and the rest with the recent opening of mass graves in the Srebrenica area. Senad is one of 8,372 victims of the Srebrenica genocide. The victims were mainly men and boys, aged 12 to 70 years. All were killed in the period between 11 to 18 July 1995.
One of the most tragic facts of the massacre is that it occurred within the supposed safe haven established by the United Nations. A battalion of the Dutch army was working within the UN to ensure this. However, the Dutch only completed one mission in the years of their stay in Srebrenica – to demilitarise the army forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which until then, defended the city from the attacks of Serbian army.
When the Serbian forces began an offensive on the city on 6 July 1995, the Bosnian army were left with no weapons of defence. The fighting lasted for five days. These were named the “July Days of Hell”. Srebrenica fell into the hands of Serbian Army on 11 July.
Women and children searched for shelter in the Dutch base at Potocari, where today you’ll find a memorial and cemetery of those killed in the genocide. Male members of the community decided to try and make their way towards the free territory. They attempted to get to the city of Tuzla, which was under the control of legal forces of Bosnian government. They formed a column not far from Srebrenica and started the 60-mile march. Where there were 15,000, less than 7,000 emerged onto the free territory. The rest were killed.
In memory of those who failed to cross the free territory an annual peace march was established in 2005. Participants start from village Nezuk, a place near Tuzla where survivors of Srebrenica came to freedom in July 1995, and end in Potocari, where the victims are buried.
During my first march in 2006, I met Mirsad, survivor of July 1995. We marched together towards Potocari. On this three-day trip, Mirsad told me a multitude of stories about the events of July 1995. With each story I noticed tears in his eyes. In the march he lost his father and he survived the inferno himself.
“If I could turn back the clock, I don’t know if I would stay with my mother at Potocari, or if I would do the same again and go with my father and my brother through the woods. Given all that I had seen, maybe I would stay in Potocari. I don’t know what it was like back there, but here I survived through seven days of hell,” says Mirsad.
Mirsad is now 33. At the time of the genocide, he was also 14 years old, just like Senad from the beginning of this story, whose bones were buried today in Potocari. Mirsad helps to bury his compatriots every year. He cries for his peers who didn’t cross to freedom, he cries for his father who he barely remembers, and for his compatriots who were killed just because they were of another creed.
The victims of genocide, in addition to searching for their missing, are still seeking justice. Only a small number of perpetrators of the crime were brought before the court. Several Serbian generals were convicted for genocide in Srebrenica before The Hague in a tribunal that was established specifically for crimes in former Yugoslavia. The case against Serbian military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, is still in process. The glorification of war criminals by Serbian right-wing organisations and individual politicians, as well as the denial of genocide, serves as an insult to victims and the fight for justice.
Image from: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/srebrenica-buries-175-genocide-victims
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