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July 14, 2010

Muslims murdered, raped and tortured

Mansoor Osman

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On July 11, tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims gathered at the town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina to remember what is considered to be the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.

On this date in 1995, Serbian forces under Gen. Ratko Mladic entered Srebrenica, and with the aid of Serbian paramilitary units systematically murdered, raped and tortured 8,000 Muslims.

U.S. President Barack Obama called the Srebrenica genocide a “stain on our collective consciousness,” and he asked for governments to redouble their efforts to bring war criminals like Mladic to justice. 

It wasn’t until the Srebrenica massacre that the international community intervened to stop the Bosnian genocide, but by then it was too late. The pattern of ethic cleansing in Srebrenica had been repeated throughout Bosnia.

Serbian forces would enter a city, town or village, and after subduing the population through aerial bombing and widespread killings, would turn their attention to burning and looting homes.

Any surviving men and women were rounded up and put into makeshift detention camps. The men and young boys were quickly removed from the camps and sent to their deaths.

As for the fate of the women, one survivor recalled: “The women’s camp was in horrific conditions. No bathrooms, no running water, no electricity. We did not eat or have anything to drink for days. “In addition to the horrific living conditions of the camps, numerous women were raped.”

A Dutch medical orderly who witnessed a rape testified in court to the atrocities he saw: “[We] saw two Serb soldiers, one of them was standing guard and the other one was lying on the girl, with his pants off. And we saw a girl lying on the ground, on some kind of mattress. There was blood on the mattress; even she was covered with blood. She had bruises on her legs. There was even blood coming down her legs. She was in total shock.” (Source: Prosecutor vs. Krstic Judgment)

How was it possible that in the 20th century more than 8,000 people could be sent to their deaths? Simple—most of the world turned a blind eye.

Genocide, murder, concentration camps—these were thought to belong to the past, to a time when the world was divided into Axis vs. Allies, East vs. West, fascism vs. democracy.

Today, Srebrenica is more than a memorial site.

It represents a Bosnia that has been changed by ethnic cleansing. It stands for the cruelty of genocide, the menace of nationalism, and the danger of complacency. It is a place where people still look for justice and recognition. During the ceremony, 775 newly identified victims where also buried.

The world must remember that if we are not vigilant in defending those who are being persecuted because of their skin, creed or ethnicity, then we might be hearing the cries of “never again” sooner then we think.

Mansoor Osman is a freelance writer based in Toronto.

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