There are eight stages to a genocide, according to Gregory H. Stanton, and for each of those stages, there is a range of ways to battle the hate that feeds genocidal mass murder. Today I want to touch on these antidotes to hate but please review Stanton’s Genocide Watch paper (hyperlink above) if you’re interested in learning more.
A List of Ways to Fight Genocide:
Promote mixed categories and actively campaign against ethnic classifications.
Forbid or make insignificant the use of hate symbols and ethnic classification words.
Expose and shut down hate groups and instances of hate speech by necessary means.
Organizations that commit genocide should illegal; members should be arrested and tried and they should be banned from the international community.
Fight polarization by providing financial and technical aid to the moderate center.
If symbolic markers are imposed to make the killing process efficient, a Genocide Watch needs to be declared. Safe areas need to be formed with real military protection.
Once underway, extermination can only be stopped by force.
To overcome denial (the final stage of genocide) requires public trials, truth commissions, and years of education. Impunity must be a thing of the past.
Saliha Osmanović’s garden overflows with life. Wayward dogs and cats curl up in the grass beside it, taking a reprieve in the green tendrils that ebb into rows of nourishment for the 63-year-old woman whose family was murdered in the Bosnian genocide. After serving us dinner in her courtyard at dusk, she settles herself on a cushion in front of us, backlit by the home’s glowing windows in sharp contrast to the night around us, to tell her story.
“I had the courage to come back,” she says quietly, with the help of a translator by her side, “because I did not do anything wrong.” She speaks to us, drawing up the grief and suffering of the deaths of her husband, Ramo, and her sons, Nermin and Edin, because she believes people should know what happened, and our visit reminds her that she is not forgotten.
In July of 1995, Saliha and her family left their home before Serb troops invaded and took shelter in Potocari. Her youngest son, Edin, was killed in an artillery attack. Nermin and Edin tried to escape through the woods toward Tuzla, seeking refuge, but were captured and executed. Their remains were identified in 2009.
Before the war, Saliha lived happily with her family in the small village of Dobrak, a municipality of Srebrenica, and, after the war, returned alone to her home in ruins. Saliha rebuilt her home and tended her garden, all the while living beside new neighbors – Serbs who claimed her town as their own after the fall of Srebrenica. She is not living she says, her voice cracking, simply surviving and suffering. Remembering. Even through it all, through the culture of denial that she is immersed in, Saliha does not hate the people around her. She walks through the town and passes out chocolates to the Serb children playing in the streets; the same streets where her kids once ran and laughed, because children are children, she says, and they deserve every bit of their childhood to be happy and free.
Before we leave Saliha, I notice the shamrock plants in her garden. They are the same plants my late mother grew when I was a child. She would cut them into pieces, repot them and give them away as gifts to her friends, neighbors, and coworkers. I had never seen them planted outside before, and, through the translator, I inquired as to how they survived the winter. They reseed themselves every year, she replied, nodding and motioning for me to wait when she heard of the plant’s connection to my mother. I knew she understood how much I miss her, knew it was a link we shared in our lives in two different worlds, two different languages, two different stories of loss.
Saliha comes hurrying back to me, shovel in hand, and heaves it into the dirt with the strength of a woman half her age, and pops one of the plants from her yard into a bag for me. To remember, she says, thrusting it into my arms. The plant, reseeding itself year after year, is a symbol between us. It speaks of transitions and hope. Of new life, of death, and of resiliency.
“They thought they were larger than god,” Almir Alić tells us as we gaze at an image of a Serbian soldier drawing his leg back to kick a lifeless body face down on the street. We are huddled in his sweltering conference room on the eighth floor of the ICTY Outreach building where Alić and his colleagues work to hold persons responsible for breaches of humanitarian conflict. The soldier captured in the image, his back to the cameraman, was once a famous DJ from Belgrade, which is not an unusual story for the lower level executors of the Bosnian genocide. They were once university professors, medical doctors; regular people before they were murderers in the name of religion. They were not born evil, Alić insists, but somewhere along the way evil was unwaveringly born inside of them.
This godlike perception adopted by the war criminals has provided Alić and his coworkers the means necessary to collect over 10 million documents as evidence of the genocide, which includes military orders, engineering logistics, and reports. In order to round up the roughly 7,500 individuals to exterminate them over the span of six days required well-organized logistics to hide the bodies properly. Bulldozers were rented, fuel was allocated, and locations away from the killing places to bury the dead were secured. Naturally, there is documentation of all of these endeavors, and, on top of this, the Serbian Army recorded parts of the genocide themselves. There are rumors, Alić says, his eyebrows sinking as if trying to bury the words even as they are still emerging from his mouth, that they were making videos of their genocidal undertakings and then renting them at local video stores in Serbia. These videos, Alić says, were considered patriotic.
Despite this mountain of evidence, horrifying in its elevation and gain, the genocide deniers still reign supreme in the Republic of Srpska, where President Dodic has recently made it illegal to teach about the genocide. All references to it have been systematically removed from the textbooks. The children of these regions are separated in the schools, lumped into groups based on their religion, and taught different curriculums under the same roof. They answer to different school bells so as to keep their paths running along separate tracks; two neighboring rivers whose waters never meet.
Another image of the inside of a cultural center lingers on the screen in front of us. The walls are painted cobalt blue and a small stage, where actors and musicians once reached into themselves to pull out the performances they gave freely to audiences, is just barely discernable. Hand grenades have stripped away the paint, have blown holes into the stucco. Skin, blood, and hair pockmark the haunting scene. The stage has been lifted by a handful of the 500 people who were trapped inside as they scurried beneath it; a futile attempt to cover themselves from the grenades and bullets tossed mercilessly, even joyously, inside to take their lives. That was in July of 1995. Tomorrow we will travel to the Republic of Srpska where the cultural center still sits, fresh paint on its outside, yet inside flecks of death still stain the walls and floor and demolished stage. No one is allowed inside, yet it is not important enough for the government to demolish because, according to them, nothing of significance has ever happened there.