Srebrenica Memorial Week: Remembering Srebrenica after 20 Years
By Nijaz Hlivnjak
وَلَا تَقُولُوا لِمَن يُقْتَلُ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتٌ بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ وَلَٰكِن لَّا تَشْعُرُونَ
Our Lord says in the Holy Qur’an:
“Do not say for those who are slain in the way of God: ‘They are dead!’. No, (they are) alive but you (do) not perceive.”
German Jewish intellectual Walter Benjamin, once said that not even the dead will be safe from the enemy, if he is victorious. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.
Benjamin was actually challenging Plato’s argument that only those who died are able to see the end of the war. Instead, Benjamin claims that the war is permanent and that not even the death saves a human from the war as such. In fact, every next war is being waged in the name of those who died before. These new wars are different in shapes and dimensions, and they are both local and global.
Check for instance readers’ comments on today’s article in the Guardian written by Ed Vulliamy: people write that Serbs were killing Muslims in Srebrenica because ancestors of Bosnian Muslims were involved in the Nazi SS division and were taking Serbs to the concentration camps, or comments in which the people of Srebrenica are portrayed as members of ISIS even before this terrorist group came to existence. They are simply waging this war of arguments therefore trying to justify what Mladic and others did in Srebrenica. This is the reality that gives continuation to the bloody war that only started in 1992.
Today, we don’t see repentance in Srebrenica, no respect for the victims, no reconciliation and ultimately no acknowledgment of the Genocide. There is only this war in which we fight for the truth about the greatest evil after the Second World War.
Therefore, all those who deny the Genocide they actually keep murdering those whose lives are already been taken away. Each and every BUT is like a sword in the hearts of the victims of Srebrenica. They feel this pain just as their members of families who managed to survive.
My friend Jasmin Jusufovic was only nine years old in July 1995. Unlike his father, uncle and tens of other members of his family who were killed, Jasmin was lucky to be very thin and small boy those days so he survived. Today, Jasmin is a very successful economist and poet and he wrote a letter exclusively for the audience tonight. This is his message to you:
After battling for 18 years with a thought that my father’s remains might never be found, two years ago I finally got my moment of closure and have had a chance to bury my father’s remains in his proper resting place. And just as I thought that I have battled the worst that there is, I saw a label on my father’s casket saying that his remains were collected from six different secondary and/or tertiary mass graves. And my closure faded away forever, silenced by the sound of bulldozers breaking through human bones.
Still I don’t hate. I do not know how to hate. I was a learning child when I felt on my own being what it meant to be hated, I’ve seen shouting human faces disfigured with hate.
Srebrenica, transcending from a simple town name into a synonym for an unimaginable tragedy to some, a heavy burden of guilt to others, and a symbol of a bitter medicine of shame for Europe and the world which betrayed its own old promise of “never again”, has been a permanent mark on my life. I, believing that I speak for the majority of survivors, therefore don’t find much of a closure in a constant talking and reminders of what I (we) have survived. Sadly, I feel that for the past decades talks about Srebrenica Genocide have wrongly been aimed towards reminding the survivors (ironically) of what they have survived, hence dehumanizing them into plain, shallow, disposable attribute of a victim.
But, that does not mean the remembrance of Srebrenica should stop. It means we have to have a different aim of our talks. When I tell you my story, I don’t need your sympathy, which ends once you get back to your own daily reality. I want your eyes opened for when you go back to your reality to be alerted and rebellious against hatred. We have been mingling in a meaningless sympathy for Srebrenica for decades, and since then we just keep counting and counting heads of fallen, murdered people, kids…
We need to start shouting about Srebrenica, because it might be a chance for humanity to see their blood-thirsty selves in a mirror. That thirst is never satisfied, and it always brings sadness.
We have to be aware of Srebrenica every single moment to know that hatred is not an abstract, other-dimension being that occasionally pays a visit; to know that hatred lives in our neighbors’ houses, and even under our own skin. Battles against it start from within us. In this opportunity of a holy Ramadan, I invite myself and you to draw wisdom that running to satisfy one’s own thirst is not as much rewarding as turning our thirst into fasting.