We all know about Auschwitz, about the massacre of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and others in Germany, but not really Srebrenica. Today, 11 July, is Srebrenica Memorial Day.
The Srebrenica Massacre was the systematic genocide of more than 8000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica during the Bosnian War that started on 11 July 1995. It was an ethnic cleansing driven by hatred and intolerance – the worst crime committed in Europe since WW2.
“It is impossible to speak of Srebrenica without referring to the fact that within the space of a week in July 1995, 8372 mostly Muslim men and boys were murdered by Bosnian Serb forces in an act of genocide. When we talk about “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and how people were targeted for acts of violence, we usually think about their Bosnian Muslim identity. However, there was another, hidden, dimension to this selection – the gender of the victims.
As well as remembering those who lost their lives, we must never forget that Srebrenica was the final act in a genocidal plan aimed at Bosnian Muslims. Among the victims of this plan were the 20,000 to 50,000 Bosniak women and girls – as young as 12 – who were subjected to sexual violence. We do not know the exact number of victims, because the majority of them have remained silent, through stigma, shame and fear.”
If anything, we need to learn the lessons from Srebrenica, particularly that we must always be vigilant against racism, hatred and intolerance in our communities; and to stand up and challenge them when they show up.
I visited the Srebrenica Memorial Exhibit one day in Sarajevo, more curious than not to find out about this little-known catastrophe. As I walked around the memorial, I had to sit down plenty of times to breathe, because the collective grief, anguish and pain was too much. Too much. Yet it was the silence that was overbearing – as this atrocity was carried out right under the noses of the UN & other world leaders, the world remains silent. More than 2 decades later, the world remains silent still.
We’re living in a mad world, and we cannot be silent anymore. We cannot be ignorant anymore. We cannot turn the other cheek. We cannot forget.