Yesterday I made the 2.5 hour drive to Srebrenica, in the Republika Srpska; about 10 miles from the Serbian border. The city will forever be remembered for the Srebrenica massacre where, in 1995, over 8,000 Bosniaks were killed in the largest mass murder in Europe since WWII.
The region around Srebrenica was predominantly Muslim but the area was strategically important to the Bosnian Serbs for the territorial integrity of their Republika Srpska. Starting in 1992, Serb forces began overrunning Muslim villages. People began pouring in to the small town and its population swelled to 50 – 60,000 people.
By 1993, the overcrowded town relied on makeshift generators for electricity and Bosnian Serbs had destroyed the water supply. There was little in the way of food or medicine. In April 1993, the UN declared the town a "safe area" under UN protection. The first UN "safe area" ever.
There were 400 Dutch peacekeepers stationed at a battery factory in nearby Potočari. By 11 July 1995, 20 – 25,000 people swarmed the compound thinking that the Dutch soldiers would protect them.
Bosnian Serbs said that Muslims would be relocated to Bosniak territory. The Dutch troops helped the Serbs load everyone on to buses. However, boys and men were separated from the women and the men never made it. Over the next three days, over 8,000 Muslim boys and men were murdered.
The remains were placed in mass graves which continue to be discovered. To date, 4,524 remains have been identified through DNA. The white headstones are for Muslims. The green markers are for newly identified remains and are given the while headstones every July 11th. In 2011, ~500 additional bodies will be laid to rest. There is only one non-Muslim grave in the cemetery. The memorial center is across the street from the former barracks.
Kravica is a small Bosnian Serb village that is 15 km from Srebrenica. Earlier in the war the village was overrun by Bosniak soldiers. On 12 July 1995, more than 1,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in Kravica. They were executed with machine guns and finished off with hand grenades. Yet, this is where the Bosnian Serbs have erected a monument to the Serb victims of the civil war.
This was a tough day but just like Auschwitz, I think that it is something that everyone needs to see.
2 days ago