Photo: Biljana Rakocevic
Women in Black Remember the Srebrenica Genocide
On July 11, 1995, the Republika Srpska Army, or Bosnian Serb Army, massacred several thousand Bosnian men and boys in Bosnia and Herzegovina in an act that was later ruled to be genocide. Each year since then, members of Women in Black-Belgrade travel to Srebrenica on July 10 to commemorate the massacre and call for the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, commander of the army; Radovan Karadzic, then president of the Servian Republic; and other participants. Until this year, only secondary figures responsible for the executions had been prosecuted. Karadzic was arrested on July 18 and is currently in The Hague awaiting trial for war crimes. On July 29, the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina found seven men guilty of genocide. Mladic is still a fugitive. The following excerpts are from accounts by members of Women in Black-Belgrade of the commemorations held at Pocari Memorial Center.
At the moment I'm on a "peace march" through the woods connecting the town of Tuzla to Srebrenica. This is the trail of death/freedom which takes place as parat of the 13th commemoration of the terrible genocide of the Bosniaks wihtin the U.N. "safe zone." The goals of the march are to demonstrate solidarity with victims and to point out that the biggest genocide in Europe since World War II hasn't been forgotten. The genocide was committed by the Serbian forces with the help of the betrayal by the international community. The march lasts three days beginning in a place called Nezuk and ends with our final destination -- the Potocari Memorial Center in Srebrenica.
Srebrenica is, above all, something we in Serbia don't want to think about and something we can't think about.
However, the reality -- the current condition of the town of Srebrenica -- is the best witness for the current ideology of reconcilation protects and in whose name the ideology was made. Today Srebrenica symbolizes the triumph of the Serbian nationalist program in the nineties. Those in power today are the same people who took part in the military operations that culminated with the Srebrenica genocide. Srebrenica is an ethnically divided town, where victims and perpetrators today live together and where the Serbs still don't admit that anything happened. Furthermore, even today they actively deny that 10,000 people were killed.
However, we in Serbia should know that by denying the Srebrenica genocide, we actually are acting like the local Serbs of Srebrenica. Or rather we should know that we are the ones living in Srebrenica and that we're going to stay there until we raise this issue and face it.
-- Milica Tomic
We do not have words to express what we experienced over the course of the funeral commemoration gathering at Potocari.
We do not have words to express how much we are touched -- we, who came to do honor to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide and to ask for forgiveness...
Now, more than ever, we know that together we will continue to fight for peace and justice in the area of former Yugoslavia and in the entire world.
Now, more than ever, we know that solidarity, respect, compassion, kindness, and understanding are very important for the construction of a just and lasting peace.
Now, more than ever, we know that we women are most active in the construction of peace.
Now, more than ever, we know that no one, at any time, can tear apart the solidarity, trust, respect and mutual support that we have created together and that we continue to create.
Your sisters in peace from the Network of Women in Black who were in Potocari from Belgrade, Kraljevo, Leskovac, Novi Sad, Novi Pazar, Nis, Zajecar, Velika Plana, Vlasotinac.
-- Stasa Zajovic, in the name of the Network of Women in Black
We are young activists from the Network of Women in Black in Serbia who are less than 25 years old. For many of us, this was the first visit to Srebrenica, the first immediate encounter with the families of the victims, the first opportunity to look them in the eyes and to recognize the horror they carry deep inside.
"When I entered the crowd, I felt like my heart beat faster, and at the same time I felt happy that I was there, and that I could be with all of them. When the song "Where are you?" started playing, that remained deep inside me. That song, it is truth. And the people had so much dignity; I admire them for their courage. I thank them very much for how they accepted us. They would come up to us, slowly, take one of our hands, and say: Thank you. And they didn't have to do or say anything else. There we were perfectly understood. There, their pain is our pain.
"I thought: what did this place look like exactly 11 years ago? It had to be just as hot. Surely they didn't have a drop of water. Did they know exactly what was going to happen to them? Everything I knew about this genocide became more real, the images became more detailed. ... A presence, in the same spot, like a recreation of the same event."
"Somebody asked me: how many people are here? Some came as one mother, one sister, one wife, one daughter, one grandaughter... for 10,000 dead. Reading the list of the victims' names on the memorial wall, I saw the years of their birth -- 1985, 1953, 1908 -- and the year of their death -- 1995. Boys, grown men, and old men, killed not because they represented some threat, but because they were Muslims."
"Do they hear this prayer in Serbia? Did they hear the genocide? The truth about the crime has its own sound. I know, persistent like time, something quiet like silence. I choose to be that sound, together with the dead and their living. We all must know, no one can ever forget: everything changed on July 11, 1995, and nothing will ever be the way it was before."
"I started from sympathy. Simply, something human in me was set in motion. A tragedy of that weight, carried out in the name of Serbia! I am not responsible... that country signed my passport... I am responsible. But still, all those young people... some would be my peers, and some younger. Craziness. I can't do anything, and I couldn't, but I do have that need, physical even, to stand next to the victims. All of this is very personal to me."
For me, it was essential that I go, emotionally and politically. The whole experience was moving. The hardest of all things I experienced was the reading of the names of the 505 victims. It took hours. Afterwards, for a long time their names rang in my head. Even though I was small when it all took place, this trip was, for me, a crystalllization of the meaning of responsibility and a deepening of my own responsibility, which for me creates political maturity."
"I chose to go to Potocari after speaking with a friend who went last year. I wanted to try to understand what took place and why. since I was a child [when] that genocide happened, I am even less familiar with everything. I wanted to see the people, to be among the victims' close ones: that I experience their attitude from up close. The hardest moment for me was the song "Where are you?, ' and that child's voice which sang it. I spoke with the mothers from Srebrenica. That completely opened my eyes. it all fell into place for me. After returning to Belgrade, when I had excused myself from everyone, immediately after, I sat down in a park on my way home, and thought, From that moment, everything is so personal."
"Although reading the names of 505 more victims took more than two hours, I ask myself how long it would take for the murder of 8,000 people."
"I feel betrayed and sad; I didn't know how what I saw would look: the pain and sorrow of the people who were there. I am so angry at the people who committed these crimes, at the people who excuses these crimes, and at the people who do not acknowledge these crimes. Never again!"
--Ana (Novi Sad), Aurejelia (Novi Sad), Dzenana (Novi Pazar), Emina (Novi Pazar), Jasmina (Zajecar), Maja (Leskovac), Marija (Leskovac), Marko (Beograd), Milos (Velika Plana), Mima (Zajecar), Tamara (Beograd)
Stasa Zajovic is the coordinator of Women in Black-Belgrade, one of the founders of Women in Black, and an initiator of the International Network of Women in Black. In 2001 she accepted the U.N. Millenium Peace Prize sponsored by UNIFEM in the name of Women in Black. Milica Tomic is one of Belgrade's best-known multimedia artists. One of her most famous works, I am Milica Tomic, explores ideas of national identity and violence.