“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 forces, General Ratko Mladic said in front of a TV camera 20 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 Bosniak 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 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre, 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, Bosniaks 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, 20 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 massacre.