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Srebrenica genocide survivor: “It will happen to us again” | Genocide News

Survivors of the Srebrenica genocide celebrated the 26th anniversary of the massacre, and the Bosnian Serb army systematically killed more than 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men and boys in a few days.

The coffins of 19 Bosnian remains found in the mass graves and recently confirmed through DNA testing will be buried in the memorial cemetery for the victims of the genocide on the edge of the eastern town of Bosnia on Sunday.

Vahid Suljic was a 9-year-old boy from the nearby village of Voljavica. He and his family took refuge in Srebrenica.

He survived the genocide, but what he witnessed left him traumatized for many years.

Suljic recounted his experience and told Al Jazeera that he feared that if the Serbs continued to deny the genocide and rekindled the lingering tension, he feared that the Bosnians might be genocide again.

Escape to Srebrenica

Between 1992 and 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was involved in ethnic wars between Serbs, Croats, and Muslim Bosniacs. About 100,000 people were killed.

Bosnian Serb forces began to attack villages, towns and cities across Bosnia in 1992, with the goal of “ethnic cleansing” of non-Serbs in the area in order to build a greater Serbia.

For Suljic’s family, the nightmare began in May 1992, when they first heard of Serbian paramilitary forces torturing and killing Bosnian Muslims and taking them to a concentration camp in the Voljavica area near the Serbian border.

Vahid Suljic is standing next to a UN soldier and facing the camera. The photo is of Srebrenica in 1994 [Courtesy of Vahid Suljic]

Fearing that they would soon face a similar fate, the Suljic family fled to the nearby woods and hid there for about two weeks. Suljic said that during that time, Serb paramilitary personnel arrived in their village, and the old man who could not escape to the woods was burned alive in one of the houses.

In order to save their lives, 250 Bosnian civilians from Voljavica decided to hike through the woods to Srebrenica, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away, because it was controlled by the Bosnian army at the time.

During their trek, the Serbian army used machine guns to ambush the group twice. Suljic said there are about 30-50 shooters in each “machine gun nest.” About 60-70 Bosnians were killed in the ambush.

His family, including his 10-year-old sister, survived by plunged into a nearby stream and waited until night fell before continuing to Srebrenica.

“We are actually like wild animals being hunted because they are always preparing [to kill us] In many places,” Suljic said.

“Srebrenica is embarrassed on all sides. They know that people in the surrounding area are trying to break into Srebrenica, and they are ready for this.”

Although Srebrenica is a “safe zone” protected by the United Nations, where approximately 50,000 Bosnians have taken refuge, genocide still occurred.

Genocide

On July 11, 1995, when the “safe zone” of Srebrenica fell into the hands of the Serb army, Surgic and his family were thousands of people seeking asylum inside and outside the former battery factory , There is a United Nations base where a United Nations camp composed of Dutch United Nations soldiers is located.

When Bosnian Muslim refugees from Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia sought asylum in the nearby village of Potokari, Dutch UN peacekeepers sat on an armored personnel carrier [File: AP Photo]

Suljic witnessed the free entry of Serb troops in United Nations uniforms posing as Dutch soldiers to observe everyone in the base.

When people were sleeping at night, the Serb army killed these people separately from their families, and also took some women and girls out of the base and raped them.

Suljic said that the Dutch soldiers did not take any action to stop what the Serbian army did.

“[Serb forces] Did what they wanted to do. They completely control the base. “

“I remember [Bosniak] Men are screaming and asking for help every night,” Suljic said.

During the day, when Surdzic went to fetch water in the fields near the base, he would also hear harsh screams in the woods.

“I saw the corpse [there], Beheaded…cannot be described in words. “

In 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court upheld Partial responsibility 350 Bosnian Muslims were killed by the Serbian army in Srebrenica.

The Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Center lists the murdered Bosnian Surgic [Courtesy of Vahid Suljic]

After staying at the base for three days, the bus arrived. Dutch soldiers told them that women and children would be evacuated to Tuzla, a liberated area controlled by the Bosnian army, but all men between the ages of 11 and 77 must stay and wait for another bus to pick them up.

When Suljic’s uncle took him to the bus, Serb soldiers forcibly separated them, and Suljic never saw his uncle again.

“When we went to Tuzla, we saw the arrested people were taken away and shot. Among them, I recognized my neighbors and I played with them before and during the war. They looked scared. , Was traumatized,” Suljic said.

When the women and children arrived in Tuzla, they stayed in the refugee camp waiting for news from their relatives.

Vahid Suljic prays for his uncle Vahdet Suljic at the grave in Srebrenica – Potocari Memorial and Cemetery [Courtesy of Vahid Suljic]

Suljic’s father managed to escape. After 7 days of forest trekking, shooting and ambushes that crossed the Serbian defense line and survived starvation, Suljic’s father was one of the few Bosnians who survived.

A few years ago, Suljic’s family received a call informing them that his uncle’s body was found in different mass graves.

Some remains of his father’s then 28-year-old brother Vahdet Suljic were later found in three different mass graves, 30 kilometers (approximately 19 miles) apart. They have buried some of his remains twice, but more than half of his remains are still missing.

Suljic said that in just three days, the Serb army killed more than half of the families, including uncles, cousins ​​and other relatives.

Denial of genocide

Thousands of Serbs and Bosniacs continue to live in the impoverished town of Srebrenica. Suljic today described it as a “dead city” with no prospects. He now lives in Qatar, a Gulf country.

Although 26 years have passed since the genocide, survivors are still struggling with the general denial of historical facts by the Serbs, as the International Court of Justice in The Hague has repeatedly confirmed this.

Posters and graffiti to beautify Ratko Mladic, The convicted general who led the Bosnian Serb forces Genocide, It is often found in the Serb regions of Bosnia and neighbouring Serbia and Montenegro.

Before the 26th anniversary of the genocide, Bosnian media reported on Friday that the Serbian war celebrations were held in the backyard of a church above the memorial center, and the music was provocative.

The latest Srebrenica genocide denial report (PDF) A report released by the Srebrenica Memorial Center on Friday pointed out that in the past year, there have been at least 234 denials of genocide in regional public discourse and media, most of which occurred in Serbia.

The report found that the majority of Srebrenica genocide deniers work in the public sector, and 28 of them currently serve in state and entity-level government. It is shocking that many of them were active in Serbian political and military institutions during the Bosnian War.

The editor of the report, Lejla Gacanica, said at a press conference on Friday that the denial of genocide and glorification of war criminals has intensified in the past year, and that denials in the region are part of Serbia’s national strategy.

According to the American genocide scholar Gregory H Stanton, he created “The 10 stages of genocide“The theory that denial is “one of the most reliable indicators of further genocide.”

Suljic said the still smoldering tensions and denial of genocide pose a serious risk in the future.

“If the situation continues like this, I think Srebrenica [another genocide] Will happen to us again. “



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