Hundreds of people lined the streets of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Saturday to bid farewell to the recently identified remains of more than 120 people murdered in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
The bodies of the 127 victims began their final journey from the central Bosnian city of Visoko on Saturday morning on a truck covered with a large national flag and laden with flowers.
As the cortege passed through Sarajevo, many onlookers could be seen openly crying. People showered the truck with flowers and prayed for the victims.
The remains were then slowly taken to the nearby village of Potocari, just northwest of Srebrenica town, where the victims will be buried on Monday, which marks the 21st anniversary of the murders.
About 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after the Bosnian Serb army attacked the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as UN peacekeepers.
The youngest victim among the 127 dead has been identified as Avdija (Emin) Memic who was 14 when he was killed. Memic will be buried along with his uncle Abdulrahman and his young cousin Halil, who was 16 when he died.
Every year, the remains of more than a hundred victims are identified and buried in Potocari village on the anniversary of the genocide.
However, 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 Bosnian War.
Around 8,400 people remain missing after the war, according to the Institute for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Full Story:
“Here we are, on July 11, 1995, in Serbian Srebrenica, just before a great Serb holy day, we give this town to the Serb Nation. Remembering the uprising against the Turks, the time has come to take revenge on the Muslims.”
Those were the words the Commander of Bosnian Serb militias, General Ratko Mladic said in front of a TV camera 21 years ago.
Hours later, after a three-year-long siege, his army entered Srebrenica, a town mostly populated by Muslim Bosniaks.
In the following days, his soldiers committed the worst massacre in Europe since the Nazi era.
They killed 8,372 unarmed Bosnian men and boys and buried their bodies in the forest around the village of Potocari near Srebrenica.
It was the worst atrocity committed by Bosnian Serb forces during the Bosnian War that started in 1992 and ended with the Dayton Agreement in 1995.
On the 21th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, remains of the deceased are still sprouting off the ground. Mass graves are discovered almost every month.
Many of the exhumed bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition.
Officials have to put the remains into DNA tests to determine their identity. When remains of a corpse is identified, relatives are informed. Sometimes, one part of a victim’s body is dug up tens of kilometres away from where the rest of it had been found.
Still, the relatives are pleased to recover the remains.
Every year in July, Bosnians come together to remember their sufferings.
They walk the same route of their elders, from Tuzla to Srebrenica, -a 150-km journey- to better understand the plight of persecution.
It’s called “March of Peace.” On July 11, crowds gather at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial outside the Potocari village.
The funeral ceremonies of all victims are held and the remains are buried.
This way, families have a place where they can pray for their loved ones.
As for Srebrenica, it became a Serb majority city and is a part of Republika Srpska of Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to Dayton Agreement. Today, 21 years later, it is hard to say that the tension has been fully relieved.
The ghosts of the past still haunt the society. No therapy, no treatment can heal the deep scar of living through a genocide.