25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre is a somber warning from history

File photo of Bosnians at a grave of a Srebrenica genocide victim.
File photo of Bosnians at a grave of a Srebrenica genocide victim.

SARAJEVO/CHICAGO — As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica when more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by the Bosnian Serb Army in what was a designated UN “safe area”, on July 10-11 1995, despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, Amnesty International reflects on the somber history.

Amnesty International’s Balkans researcher Jelena Sesar said: “As the world remembers those who lost their lives in Srebrenica and shows solidarity with survivors, it is wholly unacceptable that families of more than 1,000 victims are still searching for their remains.

“The truth about the fate of their loved ones has been buried for a quarter of a century making it hard for them to find peace or some measure of closure.”

Sesar added, “This somber anniversary also marks 25 years of struggle to secure justice, truth and reparation for survivors, including victims of wartime rape and sexual violence.

“While many perpetrators, including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, have been brought to justice, survivors are still facing insurmountable obstacles to obtaining truth, justice and remedy for their suffering.”

Amnesty International Sesar reiterated, “Srebrenica is a reminder that no society is immune to the gravest of crimes. Genocide does not happen overnight. Years of hateful populism exploiting divisions in society, supported by campaigns of misinformation and propaganda, usually precede violence.

“To learn lessons from Srebrenica and make true the pledge of ’never again’, we must begin by confronting hate speech and discrimination in all forms.”

July 11 is the European Union’s official day of remembrance for the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. Decades later, survivors and other Bosnians still have a difficult time speaking about the calamities they went through.

“We will never heal. Our loss is so huge, so enormous that we will never heal, especially my generation,” said Senada Pargan, a Srebrenica survivor and one of the more than 21,000 Bosnian refugees who came to the United States in the years after the massacre.

“Twenty-five years later, we are still searching for [the remains of] our loved ones, she told the Voice of America.

Behidin Piric, a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide of 1995, stands next to the grave of his aunt's husband, who was killed in the massacre, while visiting the Srebrenica Memorial Center in Bosnia in 2012.

Piric’s family came to America in 2000 and now lives in St. Louis, home to the largest Bosnian community in the United States. Piric is studying history at the University of Missouri and is an intern for the Bosnia Memory Project at Fontbonne University in St. Louis.

The purpose of the initiative is to record the culture and experiences of Bosnian genocide survivors through interviews, books, letters, and photographs.

Retelling the story of Srebrenica to future generations and never forgetting all those who were lost has become a mission for the Bosnian community in the United States. — Agencies