My reaction to our trip to Srebrenica this weekend was very mixed. The weekend was long and exhausting, and we absorbed a tremendous amount of information over that period of time. It was an honor to speak to Fatima and Saliha and have the opportunity to listen to their incredible survival stories. After meeting with them I was left with a deep feeling of admiration for those two women and for Hassan who was able to escape the death march. But frankly, I was also left with a lot of anger by the end of the weekend.
After listening to Fatima and Saliha’s stories and visiting the sites of former mass graves, visiting the Dutch Battalion base and watching the videos on the ICTY, I was left with a lot of anger and resentment towards the Bosnian Serbs. A very small number of officers seemed to have been convicted during the ICTY, the length of the sentences of some ranged from 5-10 years, and many other injustices. I find it appalling that survivors like Saliha who moved back to their homes after the war have to live under a government (the RS) that were largely responsible for the atrocities that were committed against her and her family. It’s repulsive that the towns that we stopped at during our trip (outside Zvornik) consist of many of the same peopled that abetted or at the very least acquiesced to the genocide committed by Serb forces.
Like Hassan pointed out, in many of these towns the present population of the town is virtually the same as what it was 20 years ago, once you deduct the number of Muslim residents that were rounded up and killed or displaced. For example, if the town had 2,500 people before July, 1995, and 300 Muslim people were rounded up and executed, the present day town might only have between 2,200 and 2,300 people or so in present day. It’s absolutely gut wrenching to think about that. To know that the overwhelming majority of people there stood by and either did nothing to help those poor people or often times aided Serb forces by notifying them that there were people escaping through the hills.
Like I said earlier, overall it was a mixed bag of emotions: anger, fatigue, joy (in getting to meet Fatima and having dinner with Saliha), sadness, and disbelief.