Remembering Srebrenica Memorial Week
This week is Srebrenica Memorial Week, organised by British charity Remembering Srebrenica, to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in which over 8,000 men and boys were systematically murdered by Bosnian Serb forces. The Srebrenica genocide was the worst massacre to take place on European soil since World War Two. It was part of a horrific conflict in which rape was routinely used as a weapon of war and in which the civilian population of Sarajevo, Bosnia’s capital, were targeted in daily shelling and sniper fire during a siege that lasted over three years.
The mass murders that were committed at Srebrenica and elsewhere in Bosnia were not committed by strangers. So often they were committed by neighbours. These were normal people who came to dehumanise those who they were told were “different”. They were told that their way of life was under threat. They internalised it. They believed it. And, down the line, they no longer needed persuading it was “them or us”.
Commemorating Srebrenica is not, however, only about remembering the horrors of what happened. The theme of this year’s Memorial Week, “Acts of Courage” also pays tribute to the many ordinary Bosnians from different ethnic groups who refused to turn on their neighbours and who took great risks to protect others during the conflict in the 1990s, as well as those who have the courage today to speak out about what happened. These acts of bravery, heroism and determination to resist hatred continue to provide inspiration today.
Srebrenica Memorial week provides us with a powerful reminder of the importance of commemoration not only to honour the dead and survivors of the genocide but also to reflect on the importance of remembering that the lessons of Srebrenica remain with us today. The horrors and the acts of courage that took place in Bosnia in the 1990s are just as relevant today as they ever were. On Monday I was proud to speak at a commemoration event alongside members of Birmingham’s own Bosnian community, survivors of Srebrenica, of Sarajevo and of more recent political hate crimes. Their testimonies underlined the ongoing importance of challenging the mindsets and racial stereotypes that breed division and of working to bring people of different backgrounds together to celebrate what we have in common.
You can find out more about the work of Remembering Srebrenica and this year’s Memorial Week here – https://www.srebrenica.org.uk/news/remembering-srebrenica-launches-acts-of-courage-theme-for-2018/