Where Allah Wept
In 1992 fifty thousand Muslims fled to a small town called Srebrenica in the region today known as the Republika of Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. They came from cities all over the region. They came because the United Nations said this was a safe place for them. They were told to turn in their guns once they arrived because they would not need them for protection, so they did.
They lived without water, electricity, food and a purpose. They had brought themselves to a concentration camp with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
From 1992 to July 1995 they lived this way. In the mountains and regions around them they could hear the bombs and the war playing out where the region of the world once known as Yugoslavia was being torn into eight new countries; Albania, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
These 50,000 Muslims were not new to this area. Many of them had lived peacefully, and for generations, in the towns and cities they had fled from. Being Muslim however they did not fight and being out of harm’s way was seen as a good thing.
There was in the area of Srebrenica a United Nations detachment. The first UN peacekeepers came from Canada. They were replaced by a detachment from the Netherlands. They occupied a vast expanse of land and did little more than parade ground maneuvers in their occupied space. They were viewed as a peaceful presence, a protective presence to those who were living here. With the world’s focus on the war taking place and new countries emerging few outside of this area knew of the treatment these people were enduring. Or of what was to come.
With the war for Bosnian independence coming to an end, on July 10th word began to spread in Srebrenica that perhaps it was time for the people to seek shelter elsewhere.
It was then too late.
On July 11, 1995 twenty-five thousand people came to the Dutch United Nations site to seek shelter. Only 5,000 were admitted. Twenty thousand men, women and children were left outside to fend for themselves. It was then that the Serbian Army under the leadership of General Ratko Mladic, under orders from Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, came to begin the genocide at Srebrenica. They were killed for simply being Muslim. By July 14th, the killing was complete. The Dutch never fired one bullet to defend or protect any of the fifty thousand.
As of today more than 8000 bodies have been found, mostly Muslim boys and men. However mass graves are still being found all over this war-torn area which was once Yugoslavia and no one is sure what the final death total will be.
Because there are so many bodies still to be positively identified and with so many burials taking place it was decided to hold one annual burial. No other date would have meant as much so these burials take place every July 11th.
This year 497 more people were buried in the graveyard in Srebrenica.
This story was recounted to us by a young man named Hasam. Hasam lived in the concentration camp of Srebrenica for four years with his Mother, Father and two brothers. He was not saved by the UN or by any other outside faction. He escaped and walked for over five days into the woods, away from the ‘safe city’ of Tuzla that the Bosnian Serbs told the over 2500 men and boys to walk towards, but where an ambush awaited. He never saw his father or oldest brother again. His mother lives not to far from the city of Srebrenica. His younger brother is also alive and well.
A wide range of emotions swept over me as I walked the cemetery in Srebrenica and looked upon all these graves. Another set of emotions erupted when I walked the grounds of the Dutch enclave and saw fenced in areas and buildings that could have easily held all that sought shelter. No one needed to have died that day or any other day. A rage boiled inside to see the blood stained walls were some of the people were marched and then killed. And I shed a lot of tears. Tears of revolt for those who did the killing, tears for those who died, and tears for those who were left alive to live with the pain and the memories of those days.
I do not understand hate such as this. I hope I never do.