SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Hercegovina: Thousands of people gathered on Friday in Srebrenica to mark the 19th anniversary of the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim males by ethnic Serb forces, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.
A total of 175 newly-identified massacre victims were laid to rest after a commemoration ceremony held in Potocari, just outside the ill-fated Bosnian town.
“This evil has still not been defeated. It will be when the flower of repentance flourishes,” said Bosnia’s grand mufti Husein Kavazovic, referring to the refusal by many Bosnian Serbs to recognise the scale of the genocide.
Around 15,000 people watched coffins filled with the victims’ remains and draped in green cloth laid to rest in freshly dug graves at a memorial cemetery.
Mustafa Delic buried his three brothers, the youngest aged just 21 when he was killed.
“Waiting was painful, but the moment has come to end this. One has to turn the page since life continues whether you want it to or not,” the 50-year-old Srebrenica survivor told AFP.
“We did not have time to say goodbye… We were five brothers, and three of us had no luck,” he added.
“Here it is the end,” whispered Ramiza Hasanovic, a woman in her 60s, who buried the recently found remains of her husband, her brother and her nephew.
Two years ago in the same cemetery, Hasanovic buried her two teenage sons, Nihad and Mumin, aged 16 and 18, who were also killed in the massacre.
– ‘My pilgrimage site’ –
“Here is my house, in the middle of those graves,” whispered the woman, her dark hair covered with a violet scarf. “This is my pilgrimage site, this is all I have. I come here when I can, I talk to them, I pray for them.”
The youngest victim buried during Friday’s service was jusst 14 when he was killed. Among the others were 13 boys aged between 15 and 17.
No close family relatives of brothers Amir and Asim Mujic, aged 20 and 24 when they were killed, survived the massacre to bury them, as demanded by Muslim tradition.
Their distant cousin Ismet Memic came to bid them a final farewell.
“All 37 men from their hamlet were killed. Their father and their third brother also, while their mother died of sadness,” said the 78-year-old.
“But from now on the father and his three sons will be together again,” he said pointing to four graves.
Atif Osmanovic buried two sons.
“The third one has still not be found,” said the 84-year-old bursting into tears, his hands shaking.
– EU pays respect –
The European Union paid respect on Friday to the victims of Srebrenica.
“Our thoughts are with the families who have lost loved ones, relatives and friends … on this day of pain and grief,” a bloc’s statement said.
The eastern Bosnian town was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces.
Around 8,000 men and boys died in the massacre which followed the town’s seizure. It was labelled a genocide by two international courts.
So far, the remains of 6,066 people have been exhumed from mass graves in the Srebrenica region for reburial in the Potocari cemetery.
The massacre took place just a few months before the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war, which claimed some 100,000 lives in total.
Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Ratko Mladic, considered masterminds of the massacre, are now being tried by a UN court for war crimes and genocide.