EUROPE

Bosnia marks 23rd anniversary of Srebrenica genocide

Srebrenica is a black stain on the conscience of humanity, says Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul

Anadolu Agency

Thousands of people gathered on Wednesday at a memorial center and cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia, to mark the 23rd anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

The memorial center -- just northwest of Srebrenica -- is the focal point of remembrance for friends and relatives of the more than 8,000 people, mostly men and boys, murdered by Bosnian Serb militias.

How Srebrenica genocide unfolded
Yeni Şafak

How Srebrenica genocide unfolded

Bosnians are observing the 23rd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. About 35 recently identified victims are being honoured. We take a closer look at how the events unfolded.

Among this year's guests will be a Turkish delegation led by Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul as well as onetime Serbian presidential candidate Cedomir Jovanovic.

Thirty-five recently identified victims were buried in a collective funeral. Tears and silence accompanied the scene as dozens of green coffins were lined up side by side.

Emotional scenes were witnessed as relatives of the victims bid their last farewells.

Bosnia marks 23rd anniversary of Srebrenica genocide
Yeni Şafak

Bosnia marks 23rd anniversary of Srebrenica genocide

Thousands of people gathered on Wednesday at a memorial center and cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia, to mark the 23rd anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.The memorial center -- just northwest of Srebrenica -- is the focal point of remembrance for friends and relatives of the more than 8,000 people, mostly men and boys, murdered by Bosnian Serb militias.Among this year's guests will be a Turkish delegation led by Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul as well as onetime Serbian presidential candidate Cedomir Jovanovic.Thirty-five recently identified victims will be buried in a collective funeral. Tears and silence accompanied the scene as dozens of green coffins were lined up side-by-side.Emotional scenes were witnessed as relatives of the victims bid their last farewells. "Never Forget" -- a slogan born out of the Srebrenica genocide -- was displayed every where.After this year's funeral the number of burials in the cemetery will rise to 6,610. Vesid Ibric, only 16 when he was killed, will be the youngest victim to be buried this year. Sahin Halilovic, the oldest, was 71. Remzija Dudic, who was brutally murdered by Serbian troops despite being 6 months pregnant, will also be laid to rest. Failure of 'safe area' More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state. The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a "safe area" in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic -- who now faces genocide charges at The Hague -- overran the UN zone. The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests. So far 6,610 victims have been buried at the Potocari Memorial Centre. At last year's commemoration, 75 Srebrenica victims were interred at the site. Every year, the remains of more victims are identified and buried in Potocari on the anniversary of the genocide. Nearly 170 identified victims are in the Podrinje identification center in Tuzla, but largely due to incomplete remains the victims have not yet been buried. Hundreds of Bosniak families are still searching for missing people as a large number of victims were thrown into mass graves around the country during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War. A total of 8,400 people remain missing since the war's end, according to the Institute for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina. .

‘Turkey shares Bosnia’s joys and sorrows’

Speaking at the ceremony, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said that anyone who facilitated the tragedy in Srebrenica is at least as responsible as the primary actors.

"On the 23rd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, which is a black stain in history, I once again offer my sincere sympathies to the sad families of the martyrs," he said.

Gul said that the ambition for political domination brings no peace and no rest.

"Deepening divisions, inciting conflicts among brothers, and exacerbating hatred and ethnic discrimination has caused great sorrows to mankind and incurred a great price," said Gul.

Gul said that in order to prevent further such tragedies, igniting the light of justice, morality, and peace on a global scale is necessary.

"Turning 'Never Again' from a brilliant slogan into a dependable truth is a long process. For this we have to ignite the light of justice, morality, and peace on a global scale," said Gul.

Gul said Bosnia-Herzegovina and Turkey are children of a shared history and geography.

"One corner of our heart is Istanbul, the other is Bosnia. Turkey and the Turkish nation, with a common history and identity, have always stood by their brothers. Turkey will continue to stand with its Bosnian brothers and sisters with their sorrows and joys, to share their grief and happiness," said Gul.

"Despite the passage of 23 years, the suffering of the Srebrenica genocide remains fresh in our hearts. I condemn this crime against humanity with my strongest expressions on behalf of Turkey," said Gul.

Bakir Izetbegovic, chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, urged the international community to oppose any denials of the genocide.

"By denying genocide, refusing to recognize the crime, they commit an additional crime against victims and their families. They insult all of us, they put their finger in the eye of a civilized world, but in essence do the most damage to their own people, " said Izetbegovic.

He added that it is difficult to imagine a normal human being committing such a crime in the heart of Europe at the end of the 20th century.

"Twenty-three years later we wonder what amount of hatred and evil was needed to kill the boy, the old man, the pregnant woman, before the justice of God, and kill more than 8,000 boys, men, elderly women and women in mass graves in just a few July days.”

The ideology that led to the Srebrenica genocide is still present, he said, and its followers are louder and more active, and refuse to recognize genocide and face the truth. The convicted war criminals are called heroes, and they get awards and recognition, said Izetbegovic.

"Srebrenica will forever remain a dark spot on the face of all those who could but did not prevent genocide. In the end, the conscience of the civilized world woke up. International tribunals confronted with the horrors of brutal murders, mass graves, and the perniciousness of the ideology that ordered it, brought judgments and called this crime the only possible name: genocide. For all these years, the conscience of the criminals has not yet been awakened.

“Twenty-three years after the genocide, we are looking for more than a thousand of its victims. Those who know the locations of mass graves are quiet. At least make it easy for both you and us. Wake up and allow for the smiles of souls of victims and their families, tell us where the remains are, " said Izetbegovic.

European Union officials also said in a joint statement that Srebrenica evokes some of the darkest moments of humanity.

The statement by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn said: "We extend our sympathies to the survivors and to the families and friends of those who have suffered and lost their lives. This commemoration reminds us of one of the darkest moments of humanity and modern European history, and of our responsibility to prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again."

The EU officials stressed the importance of reconciliation and avoiding divisive actions.

"While remembering, we have the responsibility to build a better future for the generations to come, a future based on reconciliation, avoiding divisive actions and rhetoric. Collective respect, recognition and remembrance can help to build a better future for all," it said.

Cedomir Jovanovic, a Serbian politician and businessman, said that though Bosniaks were killed, his people continue to deny the genocide.
"I come here for years, and I come for Bosnia, Bosniaks, my people, because of our children, because of people. The Bosniaks were killed 23 years ago, and my people deny the Srebrenica genocide every day," he said.

"Never Forget" -- a slogan born out of the Srebrenica genocide -- was displayed everywhere.
After this year’s funeral the number of burials in the cemetery will rise to 6,610.
Vesid Ibric, only 16 when he was killed, will be the youngest victim to be buried this year. Sahin Halilovic, the oldest, was 71.
Remzija Dudic, who was brutally murdered by Serbian troops despite being 6 months pregnant, will also be laid to rest.

'Safe area' failure

More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.
Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.
The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a "safe area" in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic -- who now faces genocide charges at The Hague -- overran the UN zone.
The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.
So far 6,610 victims have been buried at the Potocari Memorial Centre. At last year's commemoration, 75 Srebrenica victims were interred at the site.
Every year, the remains of more victims are identified and buried in Potocari on the anniversary of the genocide.
Nearly 170 identified victims are in the Podrinje identification center in Tuzla, but largely due to incomplete remains the victims have not yet been buried.
Hundreds of Bosniak families are still searching for missing people as a large number of victims were thrown into mass graves around the country during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
A total of 8,400 people remain missing since the war’s end, according to the Institute for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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