Friday, July 9, 2010
This year is the 15th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica, the killing of 8,000 Bosnian men and boys by Serb militants. This horrific massacre occurred in the context of country-wide violence between Croats, Bosnians, and Serbs in a bitter battle over territory and control. More than 200,000 people perished in fighting between 1991 and 1995.
In recognition of this date, and as one of many programs to promote understanding and healing, the Centre for Justice and Reconciliation in Sarajevo sponsored two days of conferences on the topic “Remembrance and Forgiveness: Steps Toward a Bright Future.” Both Randi Markusen and I were invited to be presenters.
Organized by Velma Saric and Alison Sluiter, the conference attendees included both Serb and Bosnian university students, a first-ever gathering of both groups at this kind of event, and survivors, human rights advocates, public officials, scholars, and community representatives.
Ed Vulliamy was one of the featured speakers. A journalist from the UK, he broke the story about the Omarska and Trnopolje concentration camps in Bosnia; his articles and photographs, including one that appeared on the cover of Time magazine, provoked horror and outrage in the world community. He has received many awards for his outstanding reporting that ultimately led to a NATO bombing campaign that helped end the war.
One of the prisoners at Trnopolje concentration camp was Fikret Alic. Vulliamy’s picture of Alic, shown below, was shocking in its resemblance to photographs from the Holocaust. Alic spoke at the conference about his experience at Trnopole and also at Keraterm concentration camp.
Dr. Gregory Stanton, director of Genocide Watch, talked about the dangers of genocide denial, one of the eventual outcomes of every genocide.
Randi Markusen, Chair of the Board of Directors of World Without Genocide, presented information about the Rwandan genocide, highlighting testimonies given by survivors.
Other speakers included Murat Tahirovic, president of the Association of Concentration Camp Detainees; Munira Hadzic, the director of BOSFAM, an organization that has created memorial quilts to commemorate those who perished at Srebrenica; and Peter Lippman, a human rights activist who works for refugee return and recovery.
In the picture: Ambassador English, Dr. Stanton and Dr. Kennedy.