Remembering Srebrenica

What were you doing 23 years ago, July 1995?

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Like many people in the UK I was going to work and bringing up my family. I had vaguely heard on the news about what was going on in Bosnia but being busy did not get involved and did not seek out any further information.

Last Saturday I was invited to a remembering Screbrenica event organised in the Guildhall Worcester. We heard first hand about the genocide of 8,372 of men and boys massacred over a few short days in a remote town in Bosnia called Srebrenica – all from the perspective of a 13 year old boy called Mirsad Solakovic who is now a grown man living with his family in Birmingham. It’s a harrowing story, where neighbours turned on neighbours and school teachers turned on the children in their care.

To my shame, back in July 1995 I was too busy to care about what was happening in Bosnia. I wonder if normal people in 1930’s Germany were also ‘too busy’ getting on with their lives to find out more and put a stop to what was going on.

I wonder too if the scapegoating of immigrants coming into Europe, the creation of a hostile environment here in the UK and an apparent rise in hate crime of ‘others’ could be seen as analogous to the build up to the genocides in Germany in the 1930’s/1940’s and the Bosnia in the 1990’s? In fact, none of the past  genocides happened overnight. They all share certain well defined steps leading to a tragic aftermath. The build up in hostility begins with classification (the ‘them and us’ language all too familiar for those following tabloid press in this country). The other steps leading to those tragedies sound worryingly familiar too: symbolisation (negative labelling of groups of people), discrimination (sections of society are disenfranchised by legal and political means) or dehumanisation (members of targeted groups are likened to animals, vermin or disease).

Through Saturday’s Srebrenica event hopefully I have re-learnt to remember the lessons of the past and hopefully I am mature enough this time to play my part in protecting our society from falling into the grip of racist, nationalist and isolationist minorities.

Thank you to Fortis Living and Jabba Riaz Mayor of Worcester for organising this timely event.