Remembering Srebrenica

Kadefa Rizvanović:  Kadefa Rizvanović is part of the Mothers of Srebrenica Association; a group of women campaigning for justice to be done and the truth to be told about the Srebrenica Genocide, the worst massacre in Europe since the Holocaust.   Kadefa fled to Srebrenica in 1992 when the Bosnian War started, two days after giving birth. She begged her husband to leave her behind as she could hardly walk. He said, “I will carry you, but I won’t leave you”. They walked together for 22 days through the forest. Srebrenica was designated a “Safe Area” by the UN in 1993. The area used to have less than 10,000 residents, by then it was under siege and packed with about 60,000 people, mainly Muslim refugees.  On the 11th of July 1995, Serb forces attacked the town. The Dutch UN troops, there to protect the town, failed to stop the assault. Thousands of men and boys, who didn’t believe the UN would protect them, tried to try to walk through the hills to reach a free territory. The vast majority were unarmed. Kadefa’s husband was among the men who tried to flee. She never saw him again. The men and boys who stayed were killed. The Serb army slaughtered more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped during the war.  Kadefa became a widow at 27. Her husband’s body was found 18 years later and laid to rest at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre.  The Mothers of Srebrenica have never sought revenge and have never acted with hatred. They say that hatred is a sign of weakness which they refuse to give in to. All they ask is for justice and truth.
Hasan Hasanović:  On the 11th of July 1995, the Serbian Army attacked the town of Srebrenica. Twin brothers, Hasan and Husein Hasanović, were 19 at the time. That night, the brothers along with their father and uncle, were among the 10,000 to 15,000 men and boys who set off in a column through the hills and forests to the free territory of Tuzla, 63 miles away. It became known as the Death March.  As they assembled, there was gunfire from the surrounding hills controlled by the Serb military. “They didn’t care that we were unarmed”, said Hasan, “Their primary concern was that we were Muslim, and they wanted us dead.” Hundreds of men at the back of the column were killed as they all ran into the woods. Hasan soon realised that his Husein, his father and uncle were all missing.   They walked for six nights and five days through heavy gunfire. Thousands of men were shot dead. Hasan survived only on a small amount of sugar and water, his feet a mass of bloody blisters. Only 3,000 survived the Death March.   Hasan buried his brother in 2005. He had been found in a mass grave.  Hasan is now married with a young daughter. He returned to Srebrenica in 2009 and works as a curator and translator at the Memorial Centre telling his story to groups who visit there.
Dragana Vučetić:  Dr. Dragana Vučetić works as Senior Forensic Pathologist for the International Commission on Missing Persons. The ICMP has helped identify almost 90 percent of the 8,000 men and boys whose bodies were missing because of the Srebrenica Genocide.   On the 11th of July 1995, when Serbian forces massacred the men and boys of Srebrenica, they piled the bodies into mass graves. The bodies were then dug up and buried elsewhere to hide the evidence. The remains of one man were found in 4 sites, 50 kilometres apart.  ICMP operate the world’s largest DNA human identification facility. Since they were established in 1996, they have taken more than 70,000 blood samples from the relatives of those who were missing. It has been described as the “world’s greatest forensic puzzle”  Dragana is Serbian, too young to remember much about the war years. At first, the work affected her greatly, having come straight out of university. Her work allows families to lay their loved ones to rest and is used as evidence in war-crime trials.
Almasa Salihović:   Almasa Salihović was just a little girl when the war started, she took me to the graves of her brother, father and uncle, all side by side in the Srebrenica Memorial Centre. She was there with her family 25 years ago. It was the last time she saw her eldest brother, Abdulah, who was only 18. Back then, it was just a meadow across from the old factory used as a base by the UN Troops. Almasa and her family sought refuge in Srebrenica in 1992. Her widowed mother and all five children shared one room.   Abdulah and her older sister were separated from the rest of the family in the rush to “safety” at the UN base in the old factory. The two of them ended up penned in inside the factory amongst 5,000 others when the overwhelmed UN soldiers shut the gates. 20,000 others had to stay in the meadow. Almasa spent two days there with her mother, brothers and sisters. On the third day, buses came to evacuate them to the refugee camps at Tuzla.   On the bus, their mother managed to hide their younger brother, knowing that the Serb soldiers wanted to take all the boys away. He lay on the floor and was covered with clothes and bags. When Abdulah and his sister tried to get on another bus, he was spotted by a Serb soldier and told to go on a different bus with the men. He was never seen again.  Only 30 percent of Abdulah’s body was found. He was buried in 2008.  The family have no pictures of Abdullah, only a grainy video of him reading the Qur’an at the mosque a year before he was killed. Her mother’s most treasured possession is a set of prayer beads which he made himself.