Srebrenica

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.

The list of the cities where those who came seeking shelter came from

The list of the cities where those who came seeking shelter came from

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.

A commemorative wall where the names are placed of those who were murdered

A commemorative wall where the names are placed of those who were murdered

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.

Mike with Hasam who survived the genocide. Mike's Dad was a prisoner of war who survived the Bataan Death March. This photo was important for them both.

Mike with Hasam who survived the genocide. Mike’s Dad was a prisoner of war who survived the Bataan Death March. This photo was important for them both.

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.

Florence Lince

www.6monthers.com

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14 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this Florence. It’s so very, very sad. I also didn’t realize that Mike’s dad was a prisoner of war. Please thank Hasam for sharing his story. I hope he is doing well now. Celeste 🙂

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    1. I asked him if being here at the cemetery helped him in some way to deal with the pain. He said that only time will tell. He has been at the cemetery telling his story for 5 years now. He said that some days are harder than others. I felt it was a story that needed to be shared. Thanks for connecting. Hugs.

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  2. Reblogged this on Applecore and commented:
    The emotions of our visit to Srebrenica were amplified when we viewed the eight minute documentary film of the events of July 11, 1995, with a group of Muslim high school students who were visiting the site on a field trip. The girls sitting near us wept openly as they witnessed what had been up to that time only the tales they had heard from their elders. I am sure some of the graves outside were those of relatives these kids had never met.

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  3. When recently visiting BiH I didn’t have time to visit Srebrenica, but found a very good exhibition in Sarajevo. For me that was really intense and afterwards I really needed some time to recover.
    But what I found most shocking was the realisation that I hardly knew anything about the events. Though I remember that it was big on the news when it was news – but later, somehow, vanished from people’s minds – at least in Western Europe. But I think it needs to be remembered as one – if not the – most horrible events of post WWII history in Europe.

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    1. The exhibition in Sarajevo that you mention is still there and still available for viewing. We only had 2.5 days in the city and we had so much to see. Our actual visit to the site really brings home the horror of what happened and one can see for oneself that it honestly didn’t need to happen. We are glad we got to connect with Hasam, it really made the experience ‘come alive’ (if you will forgive me this pun). We also did the city tour where they show you the tunnel that was used to bring in supplies during the war. Such an emotional week, never had anything like it. Thanks for connecting.

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    1. Marilyn,

      That is why I decided to write about the experience. I didn’t know this part of the story myself until we decided to explore Bosnia-Herzegovina. We also explored and walked inside the tunnel that they used to bring in food supplies for people during the war. Sarajevo is not an easy city to visit; even though the war was 20 years ago there are still so many buildings riddled with bullet holes or even whole buildings which are bombed out shells. The people try to live with it but there is a sadness to it all that is hard to describe. You would have to experience it for yourself. I tried to share a small piece of it. There will be more stories – more uplifting I hope – to come.

      I hope Hasam finds peace in the sharing of his story. I think he was more interested in making sure the truth was told then in healing. Like he said to me, there are some days when he is surrounded by throngs of tourists it is hard to recount the horror.

      Thanks for connecting. Peace.

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  4. Thank you, Florence, for an eloquent description of a horrific crime. (“Crime” seems such an inadequate word.) I remember reading news accounts of that dark time of unleashed hatred and violence in Bosnia.
    I look forward to meeting you and reconnecting with my cousin Mike in the not-too-distant future. Blessings

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    1. Deborah,

      I agree with you that words here seem so inadequate to describe what we saw. I tried to convey the emotions and the pain. I will post photos soon of our week in Bosnia to give a better picture of the people and the country. The ugliness that happened in Srebrenica is not the whole story of this region, but its a part of the history that should be told and shared.

      Mike has talked about you and your sisters for years so I’d dearly love to connect. Family is very important to me (I’m from a very large Italian family) and they have adopted Mike! I think he’s a little overwhelmed at times but it’s good for him! 🙂

      Thanks for connecting. Hugs.

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  5. This kind of hate is never understandable or forgiven. I am ashamed that in our country we did horrible things to slaves, we captured up Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps and yes, we slaughtered Indians (Native to our country.) Sad that it happens everywhere in the world. I would have wept, too. My Grandmother and her mother left Germany before WWII so they didn’t have to face what was coming. I would be so afraid of that happening again. Take care and God bless you for this post. Robin

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    1. Our entire visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina still weighs heavily on me. It was a very emotional week. Heaven only knows what will happen when we visit Auschwitz.

      People like us are where civil rights movements begin. Long after we finish traveling I see myself joining the fight somewhere to make this a better world. Peace.

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