What does it mean to have commemoration steeped in contention? Memories of the war-traumatised town of Srebrenica are preventing Bosnia from moving forward.
Written by Brandon Tensley. Published 7-10-15 in OpenDemocracy.
In Bosnia, avoiding everyday reminders of war isn’t easy: Buildings punctured by bullet holes pepper the landscape. It is estimated that there are dozens of undiscovered mass graves scattered across parts of the country. It was in Bosnia two decades ago that an ethno-national land grab between Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Yet dig deeper and twenty years belies the knotty legacy of war in Bosnia, especially for the village-turned-massacre site of Srebrenica. In July 1995, the small salt mining town was shelled and then occupied by the (Bosnian-Serb) Army of Republika Srpska – even though it had been declared a “safe zone” by the United Nations. The occupiers killed some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys. Many consider the Srebrenica massacre, which in 2004 was ruled genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to be Europe’s worst civilian slaughter since the Second World War. But as has happened every year since 1995, this year’s ceremony for the massacre is conjuring up bitter controversy in and beyond Bosnia.
So, how did Srebrenica become a perennial flashpoint, and what does it mean to have commemoration steeped not in contrition but in contention? Though the answer doesn’t lend itself to easy explanation, it’s best to start with a look at the postwar blueprint for Bosnia. Continue reading