Srebrenica Genocide 16 Years After

In English Mapping of Genocide

FAMA team
Team leader: Suada Kapić

Srebrenica burial by Jasmina Tesanovic ( The Scorpions)
July 11, 2007

Why did I expect it to be easier this year? Going to Srebrenica was never easy. It is called a “high risk business” by the local Serbian police, even in Belgrade.

On the night before the Srebrenica anniversary, we Women in Black had a commemorative standing in the Square of the Republic, as has been our ritual for the past 12 years. Standing soberly in black with lit candles, holding the banner SREBRENICA Not to be Forgotten, we stood in the city’s largest public square, without press coverage because the Serbian press much prefers to forget.

One hundred and three standing women were guarded by one hundred policemen, almost a one-to-one action. We were separated as a political virus from our non-existent audience, though crowds in past years have insulted us and beaten us.

Srebrenica is now a closed issue, according to local officials. After the sentence in the Hague tribunal last May which declares the Serbia government not guilty of genocide — merely guilty of not preventing it — the Serbian authorities as well as the local silent majority can live in denial with official global approval.

This makes us the crazy women, the fools who still ride in buses to pay due honors to the 400 fragmentary dead, who today joined 8000 others killed and missing, all buried in the Srebrenica mass graveyard after being cunningly scattered all over the region by their killers. One woman is burying the bones of her son for the third time, since his body was never found whole. Among those being re-buried today are four victims killed on video by the Scorpion paramilitaries.

Our friends from the Srebrenica Mothers Association will be there to meet us: Munira, Nura… As we pass through over the Serbian border through the Republica Srpska, towards a beautiful natural site which is also the horrorshrine, the words of a Serbian nationalist come to my mind: The dead have taken the best land for graves, while we Serbs should take it back for the sheep.

Only 12 years ago the valley of Srebrenica had a prosperous factory, turned into a UN base during the war and finally turned into a prison slaughterhouse during the fall of Srebrenica.

Today that former UN enclave, occupied mostly by women survivors and the graves of their men, demands autonomy for Srebrenica within the Republika Srpska. The victims cannot live together with the killers, especially since the killers have not been brought to justice 12 years after the killings took place. The survivors are also suing the Dutch military who failed to protect them as UN troops — the international troops who recently got service medals for bravely staying alive.

As my friend Nevzeta says: as soon as this war started in Bosnia, we all knew: the Serbs and Croats will make some deal with international community, while the final victims will be the Bosnians. In world diplomacy, if you don’t already know who the chosen victim is, then that victim is you.

They didn’t know such things in Srebrenica, for they are poor rural people who sometimes believed in Allah, but mostly in Yugoslavia.

Now Nevzeta is crying her head off now in front of the monument of Srebrenica. We set our wreath of flowers there: from Women-in-Black Serbia, “forgive us.” We are the only bus to come from Serbia. Nobody has come from Republika Srpska, the Serbian enclave in Bosnia. The ambassador from Serbia to Bosnia is present, along with ambassadors from the world and one of the Bosnian presidents. Carla del Ponte (the president of the Hague tribunal) is there too.

But we Women in Black stand right next to the monument because the people have opened their way for us to be there. Mothers have come to kiss us. My vision is blurred with tears as the mists descend from the hills above us, as the voice of a girl is singing in the silence of thousands of mourners. Yes, nature rebels in the places of crime: the crime scene becomes sacred ground.

Photo: Women in Black Serbia

A young girl has a fit of tears, she is a Bosnian teen in jeans, with her head daintily covered with a shawl. She is carried out of the crowd, shortly before the 400 corpses wrapped in green fabric are carried by their relatives to their graves. Their names are spelled out over loudspeakers, as well as their date of birth.

Young people mostly, all men, all Moslems. The mud of the grave is turning yellow. This is a fertile land. Relatives of the dead are waiting for the bodies to be deposed in that mud.

This vicinity to pain really makes one stronger and a better person. One bereaved mother comes up to me and hugs me, saying: If people will not praise you for what you are doing, God will, I am sure, even if you don’t believe in one.

I’m not a believer, but I believe in her and her words. If she can manage to live without her sons, husband, brothers, and alongside their killers, and without a penny, while fighting the Hague war tribunal for truth and justice, then I can do my work too.

A fatwa is spelled by the preacher: may mothers’ tears turn into hope, he says, and may the killers get the blessing of a punishment… A Moslem prayer is allowed for Moslem women too, as a conspicuous exception to the norm, and for all other religions as a double exception. Crime has no religion or nationality. These were my own people speaking my own language, yet killed by people speaking the language of crime, in my name.

I go to see the big memorial museum, which opened two days ago, this ex-factory where the dead of Srebrenica were crammed in to be delivered to the slaughter. This uncanny place features huge broken pipes and ducts and long-dead machines from the communist regime. In one corner there are some fifty photos of the dead, and also objects found to help identify them: a pipe, a wallet, a watch… I remember the piles of empty shoes at Auschwitz, that factory of death that cremated even the bones. Why do the bones matter so much, I wonder?

A weepy rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, turning every one of us into clay figurines, nameless and without a nation.
When the ceremony ends, we hustle through the surging, anonymous crowds, back to our unremarkable tour bus. A cathartic feeling creeps onto our bewildered minds. We literally carry the mud of the grave on our shoes.

About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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