Friday, July 12, 2024

Bosnian Muslims commemorate Srebrenica genocide

Bosnian Muslims commemorate Srebrenica genocide
July 11, 2024 Web Desk

SREBRENICA, Bosnia And Herzegovina (AFP) - Thousands of solemn mourners gathered in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia on Thursday to remember the 1995 massacre of Bosnian Muslims, less two months after the United Nations established a memorial day to mark the genocide.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces captured the eastern Bosnian town -- which was then a UN-protected enclave -- and killed 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the following days. It was the worst massacre in Europe since World War II and two international courts ruled it was genocide.

"It's hard when July comes. They ended up like this only because they had a (Muslim) name," said Mevlida Hasanovic as she prayed at the tomb of her cousin, who was 18 when he was killed. Hasanovic lost a dozen male relatives in the massacre including her father and husband, whose grave is next to her cousin's.

His remains were buried twice as they were found in two different mass graves. The 54-year-old woman is still waiting for "at least one bone" of a brother to be found so she can bury him, she told AFP. "Their souls know that we are here next to them. When I get here, I feel as if we just parted ways in Srebrenica," she said.

In May, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 11 the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica. The resolution was fiercly opposed by Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, who continue to play down the crime.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has repeatedly denied a genocide occurred and says his administration will not recognise the resolution. But Dodik expressed sympathy to the families of the victims on Thursday.

"Regardless of our differences, we must show respect for the pain and suffering that has befallen many people of all nations and religions in Bosnia and Herzegovina," Dodik said on X.

A UN court sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic to life in prison for war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. Bosnia's 1992-1995 war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs claimed approximately 100,000 lives. Nearly three decades after the war ended, the Balkan nation remains deeply divided along ethnic lines.

'He cried'

On Thursday, the remains of 14 more victims of the bloodshed, including a 17-year-old boy, will be buried at a memorial cemetery in Potocari, just outside Srebrenica. Beriz Mujic, whose remains were found in the Srebrenica region last year, will be laid to rest next to his brother Hazim. The remains of 6,988 Srebrenica victims have been buried, most of them under white tombstones in Potocari.

The remains were found in 87 mass graves, and a spokeswoman for Bosnia's institute for missing persons told AFP that they are still looking for around 1,000 people. To cover up the crime, Bosnian Serb forces moved the bodies of the victims to so-called secondary mass graves.

Kada Sikovic, accompanied by her two daughters and son, stood by the coffin of her husband, Musan, with tears rolling down her face. Parts of his chin bone were recovered in 2010 but she had resisted holding a burial ceremony until more remains were found last year. "Thank God we found some of his bones," she told AFP.

She remembered the painful moment when the family split in Srebrenica in 1995. "He cried, kissed the girl (daughter), took the little one (five-year-old) son in his arms and said: 'See you'."

On Wednesday, the European Union, which Bosnia aspires to join, called the atrocity "one of the darkest moments in modern European history". "There is no place amongst us for those who deny genocide, attempt to rewrite history, and glorify war criminals," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and the bloc's enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said in a joint statement.