Ten Years After: Srebrenica 2005
Jasmina Tesanovic, Serbia
July 7, 2005
In June 1995, I was finishing off my book on refugees from the former Yugoslavia, "The Suitcase" (University of California Press), interviewing women and men of different nationalities, wherever they came from and wherever they had been displaced.
One of them was a young man from Srebrenica: displaced in Vienna. He was a Muslim, very polite and kind to me, a Serb writing for the Americans; he invited me to his flat, offered me dinner and told me how he fled the troubled country through the Red Cross in Belgrade. He considered himself a Yugoslav and loathed the wars, according to him made by politicians, not people.
At the end, he said something I will never forget, a sentence that at the time sounded creepy and muddy: If something happens to my family back there in Srebrenica, which is a Muslim enclave protected by UN troops, I swear to God that I will kill with my own hands the first Serb I come across here, my co-worker in Vienna, and I don't care that he is not guilty, I don't care if I go to prison forever . . .
Only few weeks later, the massacre happened in Srebrenica; more than eight thousand people were executed in only a few days by the army of Bosnian Serbs led by General Mladic: the UN troops looked the other way . . . The bodies were buried all over the region, some even in Serbia proper, with an unprecedented efficiency in Balkan wars. Even today, ten years after, some people, in Serbia and all over the world, are looking the other way. In Serbia the claim of the silent majority is that crimes were committed on all sides. In the big globalized militarist world, the justification for such an attitude is: let them fight it out in the Balkans, the splendid isolation of those who can afford it.
I don't know if that man's family was killed in the massacre, I don't know if he killed his neighbor, I never managed to get in touch with him later . . . After the Srebrenica massacre of July 11, the Croats bombed Krajina at the beginning of August, and two hundred fifty thousand Serbs fled Croatia.
Only few months later, in Dayton, the peace treaty was signed between the three warring sides (Serbs, Muslims, and Croats). I remember waiting all night awake in order to see if they reached an agreement. I remember my 11 year old daughter coming every few hours out of her bed to ask me DID THEY? When finally I said yes: she went to sleep and I started crying. Those were not tears of relief but of despair. The treaty was signed by Milosevic and Karadzic. They shook hands with Bill Clinton, they acted as 'peace makers' and I immediately knew that eight thousand bodies from Srebrenica mass graves would come back someday, as sure as as Hamlet's father, because there will be no reconciliation and peace without truth and justice.
Every single year, all these years, we as Women in Black, Belgrade, we as individuals who had friends in Bosnia, we who claimed Not in Our Name, we paid our respects to the unearthed, the partially unearthed, the identified and unidentified victims of the massacre. We went to Srebrenica, we wrote about it to the world, we stood in Belgrade Square, where they spat on us, physically attacked us, insulted us as traitors, during Milosevic as well as after his fall.
The denial continues, even ten years after: the Serbian parliament cannot adopt a resolution on the Srebrenica massacre because of a disagreement on wording. The Dutch military, which was directly responsible in the enclave, are giving military medals to the Dutch soldiers who survived the crime doing nothing. The main responsible parties, Mladic and Karadzic, are still in hiding. Recently, in the Serbian media, a short video clip of the execution of some Muslim victims was broadcast. It made no immediate impact on world politics, except for the unfortunate mothers and other relatives of the missing victims.
What happened to the world in these ten years? The whole world has become the Balkans. The efficiency has risen in the killings: suicidal bombings, terrorism, invasions and occupations, state crime and paramilitary world terrorism are speaking the same fundamentalist language against the single citizen and civil society all over the world.
Ten years after, more than ever, the non-governmental pacifist feminist or similar grass roots groups are the only ones who see the necessity to unveil the crimes, condemn the crimes, and face the international responsibility for the massacre of Srebrenica done by the Serbian paramilitary. The chain of responsibility leads from those who actually pulled the triggers back to those who gave the orders there in Bosnia, back to those in Serbia who supported them, back to those in the greater world who made a peacemaking partner out of a criminal regime.
Reconciliation, truth, and justice besides the exhibitions, standings, and writings that NGO groups all over the world will be practicing this July 11. For me, reconciliation, truth, and justice would mean hugging that man from Srebrenica I interviewed ten years ago, when we both still naively believed that there was hope for all of us in the world outside the Balkans. I would tell him: Forgive me, I will never Forget . . .
Jasmina Tesanovic is an author, editor, translator, publisher, and filmmaker and a member of Women in Black, Belgrade.