Ten steps to preserve the memory of the genocide
For many years after the 1992-1995 war, many Bosniaks believed that verdicts handed down by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be accepted as undeniable truth. The genocide rulings handed down by these two international judicial institutions were believed to have the effect of being universally acceptable. The assumption had been that judicially-established truth would be accepted by all so that the Bosnian society can move forward.
However, over the past decade, denial of the Bosnian Genocide has been on the rise. The denial has been present since the war on Bosnia was launched in 1992 and takes various forms. It is now evident that international court verdicts failed to quell the continuation of genocide denial in Bosnia and the Balkans. In addition to denial, glorification of perpetrators of Bosnian Genocide is now ever more present in what Hariz Halilovich and Hikmet Karcic have termed a new stage of genocide denial: triumphalism.
In light of these dangerous developments, the question is how to counter this revisionism. As the 27th anniversary of Srebrenica approaches, it is important to consider what should be done to ensure that the memory of the Bosnian Genocide is institutionalized. In short, the strategy to safeguard the memory of the Bosnian Genocide is to sideline the local and regional deniers by going global. Here are ten specific steps that should be taken.
First, national parliaments across Europe should adopt resolutions commemorating the Bosnian Genocide and declaring 11 July as Srebrenica Remembrance Day. The US Congress adopted landmark resolutions in 2005 and the European Parliament passed a watered-down resolution on Srebrenica in 2009. Several countries followed suit. Bosnian diaspora and Bosniak officials should work to ensure that American Congress-style resolutions are adopted across Europe. This would pave the way for commemorations of the genocide in an ever-expanding number of countries.
Second, Bosnian diaspora should continue to work to ensure that their local governments commemorate the genocide. This practice has taken root in the US and Canada and should be continued and be expanded to other cities and municipalities. Annual commemorations on 11 July will keep alive the issue of what Bosniaks went through in Europe at the end of the 20th century.
Third, feature films should be produced on various aspects of the genocide. More films need to be produced on Srebrenica both preceding and during the genocide. A major motion picture needs to be produced on the death march in which Bosniak Muslims fled Srebrenica in July 1995 and tried to make their way to Bosnian government-controlled territory. The stories of survivors of the march are poignant and moving and deserve to be told. Furthermore, films should be produced on Bosnian Serb-run concentration camps in northwest Bosnia in the early 1990s. A major motion picture for a global audience on life in Sarajevo under siege has yet to be produced. Bosnian institutions and their international partners should team up to work on these projects to tell the genocide on screen.
Fourth, Bosniak scholars and academics should cooperate with American and European counterparts to ensure that curricula in high schools and universities in the US and Europe include the Bosnian Genocide as part of European and international history. The Bosnian Genocide should not simply be taught as Bosnian or Balkan history. It should be taught as an integral part of European and international history of the 1990s.
Fifth, a new generation of Bosniak authors have been publishing in English in recent years on the genocide. This should continue and include contributions from op-eds to academic books. While the contribution of international scholars on the Bosnian Genocide has been significant and should continue, it is time for authentic Bosniak voices to tell their stories and write their history in English with renowned international publishers.
Sixth, Bosnian diaspora and Bosniak political leaders should work to ensure that memorials to the Bosnian Genocide are built in the US and across Europe. Memorials should be erected in Washington, DC, New York City, London, Berlin, and Brussels.
Seventh, Bosniak businessmen and corporations in Bosnia and the diaspora should endow chairs in Bosnian Genocide Studies at reputed universities in North America. This would provide for a long-term institutionalised study of the genocide.
Eighth, Bosnian universities can work to offer summer schools in Bosnian Genocide studies in English to incoming international students. These courses should be offered to exchange students studying abroad in Bosnia but can also be tailored as specific short-term summer courses.
Ninth, a central memorial to the Bosnian Genocide needs to be built in the centre of Sarajevo. There are a number of memorials in the capital city but a central monument for the entire genocide would be the focal point. Foreign delegations visiting Sarajevo would be required as part of official protocol to pay their respects at this site.
Tenth, the Srebrenica Memorial Center has been a very active institution over the past few years in preserving the memory of the genocide. The Memorial Center should continue its international outreach programs and should particularly continue working on developing curricula, hosting students, and organising international conferences.
By going global, Bosniak writers, publishers, filmmakers, businessmen, political leaders along with the diaspora can keep the genocide alive internationally. This would ensure that the memory of the Bosnian Genocide is preserved in the years ahead.
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