By Shahid Khan
It is unimaginable to fathom the trauma and terror of families who lost their loved ones in July, 1995 during the Bosnian war. The bereaved families of a small mountain town of Srebrenica, Bosnia, who lost their loved ones during a mass killing, revisit the pain and agony of an unspeakable horror year after year as victims are identified time to time. According to a BBC report around 136 newly identified victims will be buried during a service on Saturday, 20 years on since the massacre began. Another 6,241 have already been identified.
Around 100,000 Muslims were killed as part of the campaign of ethnic cleansing over the course of the war. It is estimated that more than 1000 are still missing. An eternal pain for the bereaved families!
On 11 July, 1995 the world witnessed the worst massacre of more than 8000 Muslim men, and boys by the Bosnian Serb forces in the town of Srebrenica during the Bosnian war. The war-torn men took sanctuary in UN designated area which was supposed to be a ‘safe haven’ however, beyond their wildest dreams, it turned to be a scene of unspeakable horror when Bosnian Serb soldiers attacked Srebrenica, killing men of all ages. The extent of this organised crime against humanity grew beyond comprehension when they executed men, elderly and boys and threw their bodies into the nearby forests and pits. The act of dehumanisation and utter disregard and destruction of a human life.
Left behind were the mothers, sisters, wives and daughters facing the fate of uncertainty about the whereabouts of their loved one’s. Twenty years on, the task of identifying and burying the bodies is still continuing and poses an eternal trauma for the bereaved families who silently demand justice and revisit this pain every year on this day.
Srebrenica is the tragic example of the horror riddled ideology of ‘us’ vs ‘them’ which is clearly accentuated through these atrocities which divide the members of a certain particular group from the rest of the population. An ideology which treats one group as ‘inferior’ to justify actions against the other, including inflammatory rhetoric, hate propaganda by leaders and ultimately ethnic cleansing.
Large scale destruction of human lives like Srebrenica often remind us the old question of what powerful nations do to stop it. For example, during the onset of Second World War, the collective failure of League of Nations became the genesis of Holocaust coupled with host of other economic issues which led to the death of millions of people during the Nazi Germany. The passivity of the powerful nation hallmarks the tragedy of countless innocent lives in genocides like Srebrencia.
How was it possible that the massacre of Srebrenica happened even though the International community was alerted by General Rupert Smith, Commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, who informed that Bosnians Serbs would soon try to take the ‘safe haven’ zones?
In 2005 on the tenth anniversary commemoration of the genocide, the Secretary- General of the United Nations, Ban-Ki-Moon said that while the blame lay first and foremost with those who orchestrated this genocide and those who assisted and harboured them, there was also a collective failure of the powerful nations who failed to respond to this tragedy. He further highlighted the failure of the United Nations who made serious errors of judgment which will forever haunt the United Nations history.
This week, Russia vetoed the UN resolution that would have condemned the massacre as a ‘crime of genocide’ claiming that resolution singled out Serbs unfairly and lead to greater tension in the region.
This Wednesday, as victim’s bodies returned for burial and to be lowered down in the graves, may this be a wake-up call for leaders in the world to listen to the calls of past and modern genocides, the calls of the families yearning for the remains of their loved ones and seeking for justice they have been denied.
We should also not forget the calls to halt the mass killings by ISIS and hate agenda propagated against minorities’ communities. If we do not learn from past mistakes and stand up against the horrendous atrocities on the name of ‘religion’ the evil axis of hate will continue to haunt our future generations.
Let us honour the memories of all those innocent who lost their lives in the Srebrenica genocide by standing up to the injustices we witness today. #NeverAgain
Shahid Khan is the vice-chairperson of a Glasgow based human rights organisation, Global Minorities Alliance (www.globalminorities.co.uk). He tweets @shahidshabaz