Muftic: Remembering Srebrenica 20 years later
Imagine if every male — man and boy — in Grand County were assembled, hands tied behind their backs, marched to a killing field, and shot dead for one reason: They were all of the same religion, an identified ethnic group, hated by a superior force.
Something like that took place 20 years ago in a city with a population a little larger than our county. You say that must have happened in Africa, maybe Rwanda? It is difficult to believe that such a horrendous event also took place in an industrialized European country, especially since the Western world had, it is hoped, learned its lesson from the Holocaust.
The world is just now coming to grips with its failure to stop the worst genocide in Europe since World War II. On July 11 in Bosnia, former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, prime ministers, presidents, a queen, from Croatia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Turkey, Serbia, and Jordan (Angela Merkel of Germany paid her respects earlier), marked the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, occurring in a conflict which gave birth to the term “ethnic cleansing”.
On July 11, 1995, 8,372 men and boys were marched to the countryside, shot to death, and their executioners attempted to cover up the slaughter by moving the bodies, scattering body parts, and burying them so that no one would know. A few of the victims played dead or hid under other bodies to escape and testify to the world. Thanks to DNA and forensic recovery of the remains, all but 1,000 have been identified, and another 136 coffins with parts of identified victims, were buried in the memorial ceremonies Saturday.
Oh, you say, the Muslims did it? (In Bosnia at that time, the largest ethnic group was Muslims). Wrong. The killers were Bosnian Serbs, Christian Orthodox, and the victims were killed for one reason: They were Muslim.
It was a bloody incident in a bloody war as the former Yugoslavia broke apart in 1991 and the province of Bosnia struggled to gain its independence, with ethnic Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs, and Muslims engaged in a civil war to determine governance. Bosnia’s population was a little more than Colorado’s. Over 100,000, mostly Muslims, died before Srebrenica and in smaller incidents of ethnic cleansing. The United Nations had already intervened and had established Srebrenica as a safe haven, but some Dutch peacekeepers were held hostage and courts later ruled the Netherlands liable for their failure to protect those in a safe haven.
News of the massacre resulted in NATO retaliatory air strikes the following month against Bosnian Serbs The Dayton Accord three months later ended the Bosnia conflict, thanks mostly to the belated leadership of the U.S. Joined in a federation with a Croatian/Muslim entity, Bosnia Serbs gained autonomy. War crimes trials of Bosnian Serbs accused of responsibility for Srebrenica are still taking place in The Hague.
The U.S. last week introduced a resolution in the United Nations to commemorate the Srebrenica genocide, but Russia, to its shame, still historically allied with Serbia, vetoed it. Showing more grace, the prime minister of Serbia attended the commemoration ceremonies and endured rocks thrown at him by impassioned activists.
Highly recommended: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/11/europe/bosnia-srebrenica-massacre-commemoration/ and listen to the audio version.
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