Today I visit the Gallery 11/07/95 – an exhibition space aiming to preserve the memory of the Srebrenica tragedy and the 8372 persons who perished in the massacres.
The permanent exhibition provides documentary scenes of what was left of Srebrenica in the wake of this genocide. Through a wide range of multimedia content – images, maps, audio and video materials, the Gallery offers documentary and artistic interpretation of the events that took place in this small town in Eastern Bosnia during the month of July 1995.
... Gallery 11/07/95 in Sarajevo ...
Srebrenica ... a small town in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina ...
As I make my way up the stairs and into the Gallery, I realise that this museum is unlike any other mainstream museum - this one records the harrowing events that took place only 22 years ago - well within my memory - and it will be a stark reminder that even in this day and age - the second decade of the 21st century - similar atrocities are still being committed by evil men against their fellow humans for often no other reason than their religious beliefs.
And so the cruel and sad saga unfolds ... At the height of the vicious Bosnian War, in 1993, the UN Security Council adopted its Resolution 819, placing Srebrenica under the protection of the international peace forces. The Resolution stopped the takeover of Srebrenica by the Army of Republika Srpska and demilitarized the area, designating it as a UN protected area, and this was a momentary rescue of some 40,000 Muslim refugees from Eastern Bosnia, who had fled to the town seeking refuge after having been expelled from other occupied towns and villages of the area.
... ( the Republika Srpska is one of two constitutional and legal and largely autonomous entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina ) ...
Despite the UN protection, the Army of Republika Srpska still treated Srebrenica as a legitimate military target, shelling it from time to time and constantly blocking aid convoys, even after two years of relative peace and international protection.
Two years after the signing of the Security Council Resolution, on 6 July 1995, an all-out attack was launched, and on 11 July 1995, the Republika Srpska troops led by General Ratko Mladić entered the town.
General Mladić made a triumphant statement in front of TV cameras, stating that he had finally entered the “Serb Srebrenica” and that “time has finally come for revenge against the Turks”. ( ... no doubt referring to the Ottoman invasion of the Balkans way back in the 14th century and the various Serbian vs Ottoman wars that ensued right up to the early 19th century ... ).
His words gave a precise ideological narrative underlying the crime. The events that unfolded in the coming days were defined by the International Court of Justice in The Hague as a crime of genocide.
The military operation entitled “Krivaja 95” resulted in monstrous killings of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mainly men, but also women and children. To this day, the number of confirmed deaths has reached 8,372.
The killings were systematic, well organised and quick, with no possibility for the demilitarized Bosnian Muslim forces to offer any resistance – but they were also with no response from the international community, first and foremost from the UN Dutch Battalion, assigned to the Srebrenica enclave. Although the international public knew about the events in Srebrenica as they were happening, the international community did not react and the NATO forces failed to send the air support they had promised.
Subsequent investigations and DNA analyses revealed that during the summer and autumn of 1995, the bodies of men and women who had been executed were exhumed from the primary mass graves and moved to other, hidden locations. Remains of the victims were found in primary, secondary, even tertiary mass graves.
The process of exhumation and identification of victims continues to this day. And it seems that even 20 years after the war, the real uncovering of truth, admission of guilt and reconciliation have not even started yet.
In the following decades - and as late as 2016 - as the atrocities of Srebrenica have been uncovered and investigated, several of the perpetrators – including those men in high command in the army and police force - have been brought to trial by the International Court of Justice in The Hague – being accused of, and found guilty of crimes against humanity and war crimes and genocide.
There are still at large many who were complicit in this inhumane and cruel ethnic terrorism - hopefully the courts will continue to pursue them and bring them to justice.
In the meantime no court can overturn the pain and the sorrow and the incredible sense of loss that the people of Srebrenica and BiH have had to endure. The women who were raped and tortured, who saw their menfolk and innocent young sons - some as young as 12 - forcibly marched into the woods and slaughtered ... no court can ever imagine nor determine the fear that these men must have endued as they stood in line waiting for their final moment of pain.
The overall aim of this museum is to be a strong and decisive voice against all forms of violence in the world. Srebrenica is a symbol – not only of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of the suffering of innocent people and the indifference of others.
My visit to the museum deeply moved me - as I knew it would - and as I sat there alone in this room surrounded by images and watching actual footage of indescribable horror, my heart burst with the pain knowing that this is still going on - acts of violence and horror perpetrated by despots and tyrants and encouraged by greedy and heartless politicians of all persuasions ...
... in this post I have used images from the Gallery 11/07/95 website - and text from several sources plus my own impressions and comments ...