In Memory Of Srebrenica


Click here to subscribe to the print edition. [image, unknown] New Internationalist 375[image, unknown] [image, unknown] [image, unknown] Jan / Feb 2005[image, unknown] Click here to search the mega index.

Genocide: In memory of Srebrenica
Genocide Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. This coming July a decade will have passed since the slaughter of Bosnian Muslims in the UN 'safe area' of Srebrenica. In the context of 'ethnic cleansing' during the war in Bosnia, this too had the hallmarks of genocide. The two anniversaries are a reminder of how far the UN, and the world, still are from dealing with the spectre of genocide, most recently in Darfur, Sudan. Fatima Hassan pays tribute to the survivors.

AMONG the Muslim refugees in Srebrenica was Hasan Nuhanovic, who is now a friend of mine. He was with his younger brother Muhamed and their parents. He believed that the Dutch troops of the UN, for whom he had been working, would protect his family.

As some 23,000 Muslim refugees camped outside the Dutch compound, the Serbs began to round up all the boys and men. Serb TV footage shows this happening. The camera turns to a Dutch army doctor, Colonel Kremer, who is asked what's going on. Not looking directly into the camera, he replies: 'You know what is going on. You know.'

Hasan's family managed to get inside the Dutch compound. Because Hasan had worked for the Dutch his name was placed on a list of those who would be allowed to stay on. UN Military Observers told him that his family would have to leave.

Slowly the last group of Muslims was ordered off the compound. Hasan was told that his father could stay. But his father would not leave his younger son and wife, who told Hasan to stay in the compound as they left - to make sure at least one member of the family survived.

Dazed, shocked and crying, Hasan walked back into the compound, opened a door - and found the families of other UN personnel sheltering there. They had disobeyed Dutch orders and gambled on staying put. Overcome with guilt about his own family and unable to come to terms with being separated from them, Hasan contemplated suicide. He has not seen his family since.

Those boys and men who tried to escape and survived the 'Marathon of Death' as they fled Srebrenica described being ambushed and bombed all the way. In this hellish scenario the column fragmented. Many simply could not remember where their families broke up, who was alive and who had been killed. The killing went on for days. It reached such a pitch that many simply lost their minds and committed suicide.

Among the survivors:
Emira Selimovic lost her father.
Kada Pasic lost her two boys – her only children.
Almasa Alic lost her husband and 19-yearold son.
Besir Johic made it to safety in Tuzla after 131 days in the woods, living off apples, snails, nettles and mushrooms. His clothes rotted into his skin and had to be peeled off. He lost his brother Regib during the trek.
Mina Ibrahimovic lost her only two sons, her husband, four nephews, father, uncle – 45 relatives in all.
Hurija Gabelic had to leave her elderly mother behind. She did not have time to say goodbye. She also lost her husband.
Hasib Ferhatovic, who made it through the woods after several weeks, lost two brothers, his father and 10 neighbours.
Mina Mujic lost 35 relatives.
Sadeta Dizdarevic lost her husband and her son Selvedin.
Adila Isakovic lost her husband Izet nine days after giving birth to a baby boy. Her sister lost her husband Bajro; her sister-in-law lost her husband, her father and all three of her sons.
Remza Tihic lost her crippled husband Dzemil and son Elzir. Their daughter Jasamina lost her boyfriend Mirsad Ahmetovic son of Subhija Ahmetovic who lost her husband Izet. Mirsad’s cousin
Selvedin is also missing.
Himzo and Hajra Halilovic lost both their sons, Hamdija and Hamed.
Damir and Fatima Osmanovic lost their father Selman. A few days later their mother Ferida hanged herself from a tree in Tuzla.
Fata Halilovic lost her husband Hamdija and her brother-in-law Hamed.
Razija Pasagic lost her husband Mevludin.
Mira Mujic lost her husband Miralem and her three boys Muharem, Nuset and Ibro.
Mevludin Oric lost his elderly father Cazim. He also lost his cousin and lifelong friend Haris Amidzic.

Every mother, every daughter, every wife has a similar story to tell. I can tell you of each family that lost its menfolk. In some cases three generations were wiped out. Entire families erased off the face of the earth. No record of them. Simply 'disappeared'.

The survivors lived on, unable to move forward, denied even the right to grieve. It was not just that the boys and men were slaughtered in cold blood. Their final moments were so terrifying, they were alone - and they were handed over to the Serbs by the UN.

The women's entire world collapsed around them. The killing did not stop with their menfolk. It carried on in the hearts and souls of these women and their children. Classed as 'internal refugees', they lived for years in appalling refugee camps in Tuzla and Sarajevo. Denied housing, food, medical help or justice, many of them committed suicide.

Some are taking legal action against both the UN and the Dutch Government.

Fatima Hassan lives in Britain. Srebrenica will be included
as part of the Writing On the Wall Festival to be held in
Liverpool in April 2005.

Previous page.
Choose another issue of NI.
Go to the contents page.
Go to the NI home page.
Next page.
© Copyright 2005 New Internationalist
Publications Ltd. All rights reserved.

New Internationalist issue 375 magazine cover This article is from the January/February 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop