Thousands attend massacre victims’ burial in Bosnia

The pain that erupted 17 years ago in Srebrenica ripped open again Wednesday as tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims came to bury their dead in the town whose name is now synonymous with genocide.

SREBRENICA — The pain that erupted 17 years ago in Srebrenica ripped open again Wednesday as tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims came to bury their dead in the town whose name is now synonymous with genocide.

In a ceremony broadcast live on television across the country, 520 coffins were placed in the ground as tears flowed like water from family and friends.

On the anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War, 30,000 Muslims travelled to a memorial centre in Srebrenica to honour the thousands of Muslim men and boys slaughtered in July 1995 by Serb forces.

Izabela Hasanovic, 27, sobbed over one of the coffins before it was lowered into a freshly dug pit.

“My father, my father is here,” she sobbed. “I cannot believe that my father is in this coffin. I cannot accept it!”

Another woman dropped on her knees next to a coffin, pressing her lips against the green cloth covering the wood.

“It’s your sister kissing you. It’s me,” she whispered, caressing the coffin with both hands until others lowered it.

Then the valley echoed with the sound of dirt landing on the coffins from thousands of shovels, as a voice read out the names of the victims and their ages from loudspeakers.

Among them were 48 teenagers as well as 94-year-old Saha Izmirlic, who was buried next to her son who also died in the massacre. On the other side of her grave, an empty space is waiting for her grandson who has not yet been found.

Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim town in Bosnia besieged by Serb forces throughout Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran the enclave in July 1995, separated men from women and executed 8,372 men and boys within days. Dutch troops stationed in Srebrenica as UN peacekeepers were undermanned and outgunned and failed to stop the slaughter.

The bodies of the victims are still being found in mass graves throughout eastern Bosnia. The task has been made even more difficult by the fact that the perpetrators dug up mass graves and reburied remains in other areas to try to cover their tracks. The victims have been identified through DNA analysis and newly identified ones are buried at the Srebrenica memorial centre every year.

So far 5,325 Srebrenica massacre victims found this way have been laid to rest.

In Washington, President Barack Obama issued a statement honouring the memory of the “8,000 innocent men and boys” massacred in Srebrenica.

“The name Srebrenica will forever be associated with some of the darkest acts of the 20th century,” Obama said, adding that the U.S. “rejects efforts to distort the scope of this atrocity, rationalize the motivations behind it, blame the victims, and deny the indisputable fact that it was genocide.”

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron said Srebrenica should never be forgotten or denied and called on the world to “prevent such atrocities from taking place.”

Mladic was arrested last year in Serbia and is on trial now at the tribunal in The Hague. He faces 11 charges, including genocide, for allegedly masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the war that left 100,000 dead, especially the Srebrenica massacre.

He denies wrongdoing.

Many Serbs still deny the Srebrenica genocide, including Serbia’s newly inaugurated president, Tomislav Nikolic.

Some of them view Mladic as a national hero.

“Serbs believe he is an honourable and fair man,” said Bosnian Serb Novica Kapuran from the town of Pale, near Sarajevo. “He is being blamed for something he has not done.”

Tired of listening to political speeches every year, the families of the victims allowed only Holocaust survivor Rabbi Arthur Schneier of the Park East Synagogue in New York to address them during Wednesday’s ceremony.

“Shalom, Salam,” Schneier greeted the crowd, calling them “brothers and sisters.”

He said the Srebrenica genocide was a crime against humanity but also a crime allowed by the rest of humanity.

“Silence is not a solution, it only encourages the perpetrators and ultimately it pays a heavy price in blood,” Schneier said.

He reminded the audience that even today, the Syrian regime was killing its own people.

“(It’s time) for humanity to say in one clear voice: These crimes against people will end!” the rabbi declared. “Here on this sacred day we say ’Never again!’ And we mean ’Never again!”

The crowd greeted his words with “Allah Akbar” — “God is great” in Arabic.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
COVID-19 death toll verges on 10,000 as second wave continues to surge

Nearly 10,000 Canadians have died due to COVID-19, a mark of the… Continue reading

The Red Deer RCMP has filed another set of charges after an alleged assault at an anti-racism rally on Sept. 20. (File photo by Advocate Staff)
More assault charges filed after Sept. 20 anti-racism rally in Red Deer

Trevor Lyle Roy faces a second set of charges stemming from the event

Your weather forecast for Thursday, August 1st, 2019. (Pixabay)
Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer Tuesday

Expect a slightly windy day in Red Deer. Although as of noon… Continue reading

“We need to keep our hospitalization rate low. We need to keep our ICU beds open, and we need to keep people healthy and our case numbers low," says Karen Mann, Red Deer’s emergency management co-ordinator. (File photo by Advocate staff).
City says it is monitoring COVID around the clock

Following guidance from Alberta’s medical officer of health

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees were back on the job Tuesday after a provincewide wildcat strike on Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer hospital workers back on the job

Red Deer hospital was one of 45 sites with picket lines

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Three Rebels on 2021 NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch list

A trio of Red Deer Rebels has caught scouts’ eyes ahead of… Continue reading

Kathleen Finnigan, who was named superintendent of the Red Deer Regional Catholic School Board on Tuesday, has more than 30 years of experience as an educator. (Courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Kathleen Finnigan named Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools superintendent

The Red Deer Regional Catholic School Board will continue to be led… Continue reading

(Emily Jaycox/Bashaw Star)
Wreath laying ceremony held in Manfred, Alta.

Ceremony marks 64th anniversary of Hungarian revolution, honours settlers

The Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre could be affected by cuts to Alberta Health Services announced by the government Tuesday. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
David Marsden: Yes, we know how to do laundry

Union leaders would have us believe there’s something special about their members:… Continue reading

Most Read