The first stop of our Srebrenica trip was the Missing Persons Institute (MPI) is Tuzla. The unit served as the bone identification center for the Srebrenica genocide. So many emotions washed over me as I looked up at hundreds of body bags filled with bones of those killed in the genocide. The sadness of the harsh reality that was the genocide at Srebrenica started to sink into me; little did I know it was just the beginning.
The drive from Tuzla to Srebrenica is filled with beautiful landscape with picturesque hills. This is of course until I process what we learned at the MPI, that below all these hills could be mass graves of those killed, waiting to be found. These hills hold the hundreds of men murdered in the genocide, whose bodies have not yet been identified.
We ended the day at Saliha’s, a beautiful home for an extraordinary woman. Dinner was warm and welcoming filled with conservation and laughter. Once the dinner was finished, Saliha began her story. The story started in 1992 when her family flees their village to go to settle as refugees in Srebrenica. The story continued with the loss of two sons and her husband during the genocide and her experience testifying at The Hague. It is clear to me that she is an extraordinary woman with a hugely powerful, yet horrendous, story. Her resilience and love for humanity even after everything she has been through is truly inspiring.
The following day we spent at the Srebrenica Memorial. Hearing Hasan’s story of escaping the genocide was horrifying. From life as a refugee in Srebrenica to being separated from his family and going through the forest, all to it is devastating to imagine. Yet Hasan has this amazing air about him, and says things like “others had it worse, I was never taken to an execution site.” The resiliency that is such a part of Saliha’s character is mirrored in Hasan. The all-encompassing love they both have for all life and how they seem so able to love and see in the good after so much bad is shockingly remarkable.
After leaving the memorial words escape me. All the things that happened, all the lives lost, the failure of the UN and the Dutch, all those still denying that it happen, slowing sink into me. How could this happen under UN protection? The videos that captured the torture and the killings of Bosnian Muslims as Serbian propaganda and still the world allowed genocide, thousands of innocent lives lost because of ethnic cleansing.