“All who wish to go will be transported, large and small, young and old. Don’t be afraid, just take it easy. Let the women and children go first … No one will harm you.”
General Ratco Mladić, 12 July 1995
On July 11, 1995, General Ratco Mladić of the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) walked into the UN protected “safe area”of Srebrenica in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the Serbian border. Mladić turned to his cameraman and spoke. “Here we are, on the eleventh of July of the year 1995, in Serbian Srebrenica. On the eve of yet another great Serb holiday we present this town as a gift to the Serb nation. The moment has finally arrived that, after the revolt against the Dahijas, we will have vengeance against the turks in this place.”
What followed was the worst genocide in European history since the second world war.
Over the next few days, Mladić and the VRS separated the women from the men and placed them on busses to be deported to camps in Bosnian held territory. The women and young children, with UN escorts, arrived. The men did not.
By July 21, 1995, more than 8000 Muslim Bosniaks, primarily men and boys as young as 8 and as old as 88, as well as a handful of women, had been systematically executed and buried in mass graves. Of those who disappeared, the remains of just over 7000 have been identified to date and only 6377 have had a proper burial. Secondary and tertiary mass graves are still being discovered today.
21 years later, the use of the term “genocide” to describe the events in Srebrenica and Potočari remains controversial in Serbia, though government has been pressured by MP’s to adopt a proposal that “condemns the genocide in Srebrenica and any denial of genocide, and proclaims July 11 the Day of Remembrance of the Genocide in Srebrenica”. (1) A similar resolution in the UN in July 2015 failed when Russia, with Security Council veto powers, voted against it. Whether this new resolution passes remains to be seen.
Gallery 11/7/95 in Sarajevo is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Srebrenica massacre and the 8372 lives lost. A nominee for the 2016 European Museum of the Year award, it’s worth a visit if you’re in the area.
If you have more time, take a drive to the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Cemetery , opened in September 2003, to both educate visitors and to provide a final resting place for those victims identified.
About the featured image:
The photo above is a stencil installed on a building in Belgrade, Serbia. The hashtag #sedamhiljada means “seven thousand” and stands for an action begun by Serbian journalist Dusan Masic to bring 7000 people together in front of the National Assembly of Serbia on the 20th anniversary of the massacre. Government banned all public gatherings on that date for security reasons. The initiative continues today.