Somewhere in what they once called the land of milk and honey, a tragedy occurred. The term tragedy does not fully encompass the disturbing events that led to the eventual genocide of the Bosniak-Muslim population throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. But for now, let’s simply use the word tragedy.
Between the years of 1992-1995, the Bosniak-Muslim population in the Balkans, mainly in Bosnia and Herzegovina was subject to a brutal genocidal campaign perpetrated by the Serbian forces. Between 1992 until 1995, it is estimated that near 150,000 Bosniaks were murdered, 2.1 million were displaced, over 50,000 Bosniak-Muslim women raped, and thousands of mass graves created to hide the shame of those responsible.
One of the most notable of the tragedies which took place in Bosnia was the massacre in Srebrenica.
On April 16, 1993, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 819, which determined Srebrenica to be a “safe area” and “free from any armed attack or any other hostile act.” However, in July 1995 the UN forces withdrew their “protection” of Srebrenica allowing the Serbian forces to take over the small, Bosniak-Muslim populated town. The consequence of their failure to protect resulted in over 8,000 Bosniak-Muslims being massacred in a matter of three short days. During this three day period, Bosniak-Muslims were subjected to torture, rape, exile and eventual execution. Their only crime was being Muslim.
This year will mark 20 years since the Srebrenica genocide, one of the massacres which makes up the larger part of the Bosnian Genocide, and as such those of us who are from the land of milk and honey, have been forced to reflect upon the events that led to genocide of our people and where we stand now. Twenty years from the genocide of my people, and yet the screams that the rest of world did not hear still echo in my ears.
Throughout Bosnia, people are suffering, economically, socially, and most importantly emotionally. Those who survived the genocide have not been provided with a chance to heal and recover. How could they? After all, it is in this same country that those responsible for the genocide and mass rapes are now roaming free and living next to those they once terrorized.
There are mass campaigns and even millions of dollars poured into ensuring that the denial of the genocide in Srebrenica and throughout the rest of Bosnia continues. The terror of Bosniak-Muslims, particularly those who survived the genocide continues. As these people try to heal, they are constantly told by those who deny the genocide that their pain is not real. The brutal cycle of violence only continues and adds further fuel to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which, according to some sources, plagues approximately 70% of the population.
Twenty years after the genocide and the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Bosnian Diaspora continue to feel the pain of it. Just as in the 90s, however, there are few people out there that are willing to hear and witness their pain. There are even fewer who are willing to extend a helping hand towards recovery. The ultimate question that is often posed is “Why should anybody care about the Bosnian genocide?”
With the rise of Islamophobia throughout Europe and the everlasting persecution of Muslims throughout Syria, Burma, C.A.R and so many other places, we should remember the original victims of Islamophobia and how quickly Islamophobia can escalate to a full genocide. We should remember how easy it is for words to escalate into beatings and beatings into torture and torture into execution. We should remember how easy it is for verbal dehumanization to turn into an attempted forceful extinction of an entire ethnic group.
We should remember what occurred in Srebrenica, in Brcko, in Tuzla, in Visegrad, in Prijedor, in Sarajevo, in Doboj, in Gorazde and in every single corner of the genocide-stricken Bosnia. We should remember their pain and let it stay with us. Because when we allow ourselves to forget the pain, the torture, the screams and the tears of the Bosnian people, we allow it to occur again. That is very apparent by today’s events where genocide continues to occur throughout the world and it is very apparent by the terrifying question that plagues the Bosnian people: “Will there be war again?”
On July 11, I, along with the rest of the Bosnian population will wake up with a heavy heart and a soul full of sorrow. We will pray for the loved ones we lost, for those whose bodies we still have not found, for the mothers of Bosnia and for Bosnia’s children whose tears are enough to drown the world in. We will wake up and force ourselves to remember the tragedy we saw, felt, and experienced. We will mourn. Will you mourn with us?