This week’s guest writer and photographer is Jennifer Epp, Human Resources administrative assistant (international) at MCC Canada in Winnipeg. Jennifer visited the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery in October 2013.
This week marks the twentieth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, a town situated in northeastern Bosnia. During the Bosnian War (1992-1995), Srebrenica was designated by the United Nations’ as its first-ever “safe area” in April 1993. Thousands of Bosnian Muslim (“Bosniak”) refugees found temporary safety there.
However, the United Nations’ promise to provide protection for refugees collapsed. And on 11 July1995, Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić led Serbian troops into Srebrenica.
Serb forces separated women and children from the men and put them on buses destined for Tuzla, a city located over 100 kilometers away. Approximately 15,000 men and boys attempted to escape the Serbian military by fleeing on foot through mountains and forests in order to seek protection in Tuzla. However, over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in what was later identified as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
This week I remember Srebrenica.
The Srebrenica Memorial Stone indicates the number of dead: “8372 … the total number of victims which is not final.” The munipalities from which missing victims of the massacre originated are listed on the left-hand side.
No camera can possibly capture the overwhelming immensity of the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery. Many people will mark the twentieth anniversary on 11 July 2015 by returning to the cemetery for a collective burial of newly-identified remains.
Since the Dayton Peace Agreement was struck in Autumn 1995, Srebrenica is located in the predominantly-Serbian entity known as Republika Srpska, which is within the present country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some Bosniaks returned to Srebrenica after the war but post-war rebuilding of the town has been slow.
BH Crafts, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s only certified member of the World Fair Trade Organization, is also commemorating its twentieth anniversary in 2015. The company began as a project at a refugee centre built near Tuzla in 1995 by The Norwegian People’s Aid. BH Crafts provides hope-filled employment for women of all ethnicities in a country where the unemployment rate remains above 40 percent. The women continue to heal from war trauma as they learn traditional skills such as knitting, crocheting, embroidery and weaving and create high-quality clothing, toys and souvenirs from local fibers. A tag is attached to each finished product with the name of the woman who created it.
This week I remember and I pray…