July 11th 2015, 20th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide – my thoughts

Following the end of the peace march on Friday the 10th and a very chilly night in a tent, the day of the 20th anniversary memorial was here. In past years families of the deceased and the remaining marchers attended the burial of the dead identified during the year. However this being the big anniversary, foreign dignitaries were flying in from around the world, and media outlets from every corner of the globe were filing their way into Srebrenica to cover the events. Among the guests for the anniversary included Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, Princess Anne, Queen Raina of Jordan, the PM of Turkey, the president of Croatia, a gaggle of Saudi Royals, a delegation from Iran, and most controversial and noteworthy, the Serbian PM Aleksandar Vucic.

If you’ve been anywhere the international news in the past week, you know that Vucic’s visit to the memorial did not go well, and he was pelted with trash and hit with stones as he walked through the cemetery to pay his respects, and he ultimately fled with his security detail to jeers and boos from some members of the crowd. After the this incident the whole day felt uneasy, it was uncomfortably hot, no water or food for sale in sight, crowds of people in confusion about where they could go or should be, barricades and gates suddenly appeared or disappeared, midday prayers were starting and crowds were heading for the city busses they came in on.

Despite the day being referred to as the memorial, it lacked the somber serenity and dignity of the activities at the memorial the evening before. The focus was no longer on the dead, their families, or even really the genocide. The guest list for the festivities and the resulting media circus had stolen the show. The peace, calm, and almost sanctuary we had seen in Potocari the previous Tuesday before we started the march seemed impossible that day.

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