Humairaa Mayet | 15 July 2019 | Image: history.com
11 July 2019 marked 24 years since the massacre and genocide carried out by the Serbian government in 1995 on Bosnian Muslims, Croatians and non-Serbs in Srebrenica. Approximately 50 000 women and children were raped and 8 372 people killed, with many still missing.
In an interview on Salaamedia with Inayet Wadee, Emin Poljarevic, assistant professor of religion at Uppsala University, explained the aftermath of the 1995 atrocities. Poljarevic likened the Srebrenica massacre to a festering wound which has not healed over time.
Today, many Serbs deny the genocide of thousands, including Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president, who promotes Serbian ultra-nationalism.
There are 11 stages in the build up to genocide, stated Poljarevic, the first three being classification, symbolisation and discrimination, all of which pervaded Bosnia in the years leading up to the Srebrenica massacre. Documents detailing the systematic dehumanisation of non-Serbs have been found, illustrating the extreme nationalist stance taken by the Serbian administration.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Serbs portrayed themselves as victims of terrorism and extremism carried out by Bosnian Muslims. Thus, the vilification of Bosnian Muslims assisted in the justification of the massacre and genocide, and minimised backlash, said Poljarevic.
The Balkans is an incredibly complicated region with many historical complexities which give rise to hyper-nationalism and discrimination against certain religious groups and ethnicities.
Today in Bosnia, victims of the massacre are forced to share the space with the perpetrators of the genocide. Women who were raped in 1995 and fell pregnant were forced to keep the children, stated Poljarevic, and today women are afraid to tell their children the truth about their conception. Hyper-nationalist Serbs are calling for the annexation of Bosnia in order to separate Serbian people from others.
Propaganda and control of media outlets were utilised by the Serbian administration leading up to the Srebrenica massacre, whereby they perpetuated the vilification of the other. This proves that their actions were pre-meditated, said Poljarevic.
Along with the rape and murder of thousands, hundreds of mosques were destroyed, and religious scholars were killed, said Poljarevic, in an attempt to eradicate Islam.
Many are unaware of the events which took place in Bosnia in 1995 because mass atrocities committed against Muslims do not fit the narrative of the mass media. Following the rise of Islamophobia in Europe and systematic denial from Serbs, the genocide is not public knowledge and is not widely covered in the media.