8372…

The Old Battery Factory and UN Base

…The number of lives murdered in July 1995 when Serbian forces overtook Srebrenica and embarked upon a systematic cleansing of the Bosniak, Bosnian Muslim, people. This was the largest systematic mass murder in Europe since World War II. The international community, specifically the UN peacekeepers (UNPROFOR) stationed in the “safe area” of Srebrenica, failed to act for and on behalf of the Bosniak people. They failed to prevent and stop the genocide unfolding before them.

It was difficult to walk through a cemetery dedicated solely to the lives of those killed during the Srebrenica massacre. Men and boys were separated from their wives, mothers, and sisters, ordered by Serb forces to their deaths. They were then concealed in mass graves scattered throughout the region. To date, 6594 victims’ remains have been identified. Some may never be located or identified.

It was difficult to walk through the old battery factory and UN base where thousands of Bosniak people fled, hoping for safety and relief from the Serb army after the fall of Srebrenica. This same factory bears the remains of identified victims who are commemorated and buried at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide every year on July 11. This year, 613 people were buried.

Cemetery at Potočari

It is difficult to conceptualize 8372 people murdered because of their ethnicity, or for any reason for that matter. It is difficult to hear the stories of mothers forcibly separated from their husbands and sons who still don’t know what happened and hope daily that the remains of their loved ones will be discovered, identified, and properly buried, if anything for some peace. For the men who fled through the woods and survived their journey to the free territory of Tuzla–their tears, exhaustion, and grief captured on film–what freedom did they find?

The cemetery felt like a sea of white with imperceptible boundaries. To know that it will only grow larger with time–it’s nauseating.

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