Bosnia: Remembering the Srebrenica massacre – Features – Al Jazeera English
Last week, more than 15,000 people attended the burial ceremony of 175 men and boys who were killed during the Srebrenica genocide, on July 11-13,1995.
The ceremonyat the Potocari memorial centre, down the road from the town of Srebrenica, marked the 19thanniversary of the genocide. Each year, bodies that have been newly found and identified from mass graves are laid to rest at the memorial site. So far, the remains of more than 6,000 people killed during the massacre have been buried in Potocari.
This year’s commemorations came a few days before a verdictis expected on a lawsuit brought by survivors of the genocide, who are suing the Netherlands over the role of Dutch UN peacekeeping soldiers. They accuse the soldiers of failing to prevent the massacre, in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after being offered protection in a UN “safe haven”.
After a religious ceremonyat the Potocari memorial, the names of the dead were read out to the crowd, and relatives carried the 175 coffins to new grave plots within the memorial site. After the graves were dug, an imam read a prayer at each grave before the coffin was lowered.
Although Bosnian Muslim tradition states that close family members must bury the dead, in some cases only distant relatives of the victims survived the genocide. Brothers Amir and Asim Mujic, aged 20 and 24 when they were killed, were buriedon Friday by their distant cousin, 78-year-old Ismet Memic. “Their father and their third brother were killed, then their mother died of sadness,” he explained.
As time passes, relatives whose family members are still missing or whose bodies have only been partly found have grown increasingly concernedthat their loved ones will not be buried in their lifetime.
This year, more than 5,000 people participated in a three-day “peace march” from Nezuk to Srebrenica. It followedthe route taken by the thousands of Bosnian Muslims who fled Srebrenica in July 1995, thoughin the opposite direction.The annual peace march has grown in popularity in recent years, with organisers estimating that around 80 percent of this year’s participants were under 30 years old.
Bosnians mark 19th anniversary of Srebrenica
Twenty-year-old Harun Merdzanic, who grew up partly in Sweden after his family left Bosnia in the 1990s, explained that the march and memorial are important “to remember what the genocide victims went through in 1995, to honour their memory”.
But in Bosnia and Herzegovina, honouring the memory of those who died in the 1992-95 war is not easy. Since the war, schools have often been segregated on ethnic lines, teaching children three different, mutually exclusive narratives of what happened after the disintegration of Yugoslavia.
Many continue to contest what took place during the war. In Republika Srpska, the Serb-majority entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina where Srebrenica is situated, President Milorad Dodik has repeatedly deniedthat 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.
Merdzanicbelieves that the July 11 commemoration helps to counter denial of the massacre’s genocidal nature. “Srebrenica needs to be preserved as a memory for humanity, like Auschwitz.