By Medina Malagić – Sarajevo
Today in the Memorial Center in Potočari, over 400 more victims of the more than 8,000 that were killed in the course of a few days in 1995 after the UN-declared ‘safe-haven’ of Srebrenica fell to forces under the command of General Ratko Mladić were laid to rest.
The 18th anniversary of the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide was attended by the families of the victims who were buried here today, as well as numerous foreign diplomats and EU officials, among which were the Head of the EU Delegation to BiH Peter Sorensen, Deputy Head of the EU Delegation to BiH Renzo Daviddi, High Representative in BiH Valentin Inzko and the US Ambassador to BiH Patrick S. Moon.
While the genocide in Srebrenica is marked every year with reburials of victims whose remains have been found and the attendance of foreign politicians and dignitaries, what should not be forgotten is that genocide did not only occur in Srebrenica during the conflict in BiH during the 1990’s. Rather, Srebrenica has become the paradigm for the crime of genocide that was systematically carried out throughout all of BiH during this time.
Indubitably, Srebrenica has left a scar not only in BiH, but also for the international community, and every year of the marking of the genocide it is a painful reminder of the grave consequences of long-delayed international intervention.
In a country that is still divided along ethnic lines, where Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which stipulates that people have a right to sustainable return to their pre-war homes has not yet been adequately implemented, and in a country in which many schools are still ethnically divided and politicians continue to ramp up nationalist rhetoric, the future of a functioning, multi-ethnic and multi-religious BiH remains bleak and uncertain.
Looking at the ethnic makeup, or rather the interweaving of the various ethnicities throughout the coutnry pre-war and post-war, and now with the conditions that have been created that are not conducive to sustainable return to pre-war homes, it is easily perceptible that unless the scars of this past are confronted, the future does not look too bright for BiH. This is a country that, while it was a part of the former Yugoslavia, was perceived by its neigbhors as a mini-Yugoslavia, a rugged country whose diverse peoples have shared this small piece of land for centuries.
It is now eighteen years since the Srebrenica genocide and the conflict in BiH, and the country has still not fully come to terms with its past. Beyond a doubt, reconciliation is vital for the future of the country, especially now amidst the efforts of BiH to join the European Union.
At the memorial site in Potočari today, of the 409 victims that were buried, 44 were young boys aged between 14 and 18, while the youngest victim was a newborn. For an onlooker, the several hundred wooden coffins lined up in columns next to one another inevitably elicit profound emotions. The killing of one innocent victim is a fact that is difficult to bear. The burial of hundreds of victims today, who will join the 6,066 of the more than 8,000 Srebrenica victims who were killed in one place over the course of several days, whose only ‘crime’ was belonging to a different nationality is a testament to the virulence of nationalist-inspired acts of violence. It should continue to serve as a reminder to the entire world that the failure to resist nationalist chauvinism and hate, and when allowed to fester and spin out of control, has devastating and long-lasting consequences.