Today Randi Markusen and I met with leaders of three important organizations. We spoke with the staff at the Concentration Camp Survivors’ Association, which has gathered testimony from 55,000 survivors. The goal is to create laws to provide restitution for these survivors as one form of transitional justice. The Association helps survivors prepare their testimonies for court and works to insure their safety as they speak out against those who perpetrated crimes against them.
At the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica, we met with women who lost husbands, fathers, and sons at the massacre. These mothers, most of whom are from small villages, have developed a powerful network and a political presence. They created the annual ceremony of remembrance at Srebrenica, pressed for ongoing exhumation and identification of remains, and advocated for government support for the widows and children of the men who perished. We heard heartbreaking stories of loss and grief – but also of hope, of love for neighbors with whom lives were shared regardless of ethnicity and religion, and of a vision for a peaceful and prosperous Bosnia.
We had a very inspiring meeting with Anisa Suceska Vekic, Director of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN). Much of the journalism in Bosnia following the war was what we would call ‘yellow journalism,’ the use of opinion instead of fact, emotion and sensationalism instead of objectivity. This was very problematic because media reports of genocide trials were inaccurate and misleading. These distortions of the truth kept people from understanding the past and moving towards a better future. Through BIRN’s work, courtrooms for genocide trials are now open and transparent and evidence-based journalism has become the norm. BIRN’s reports are available online, with more than a million regular readers, and they now produce radio and television news as well. BIRN is also creating the next generation of investigative journalists through outreach to students in the area’s universities.
This organization’s remarkable work is done by a small, young, and dedicated staff. The director will share this story at a conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. next week.
We were inspired and encouraged by great work being done by people who believe in Bosnia.