The following piece is the expressed opinion of Kadina Mazic, (you can read her full bio below). Its content reflects that of the author, and is not necessarily endorsed by IJSD. We are grateful to the author for her insight.
Beginning on July 11th, 1995, more than eight thousand men and boys were slaughtered in Srebrenica. They were among the 100,000 Bosnians who would be killed as a part of the campaign of ethnic cleansing that had occurred over the course of the war. It was the worst atrocity Europe had seen since World War II.
Just before the slaughter Ratko Mladic, the military leader for the Serbian Nationalists was seen laughing and telling the victims not to worry, everything is going to be okay.
On that day – July 11th, 1995 – the people of Srebrenica knew that the world had abandoned them.
I was too young to know of what was happening in Srebrenica. I was born in a city two hours away; a city that we were fortunate was only bombed. It wasn’t until a few years later, when I moved to Manchester, New Hampshire and met the many survivors that had settled here, that I truly began to realize the abomination that is the Fall of Srebrenica. From them, I heard stories of what survivors had endured. Stories that made me question human cruelty and the inhumanity of it all.
To this day, I have many sleepless nights trying to understand how someone could slaughter so many and so easily. It is something that I will forever struggle with understanding.
Those few that have survived Srebrenica were displaced throughout the world. In 1997, the first Bosnian refugees came to Manchester, New Hampshire. Those refugees were survivors detained in Srebrenica.
Today almost 20 years later those survivors have created a new life for themselves. They are successful members of the Manchester community. They have acclimated and adapted to society here. They became our friends, neighbors, family, and loved ones. They moved forward while attempting to keep the demons of Srebrenica suppressed. Our Bosnian community since then has grown to over three thousand in Manchester alone. The majority of this population are victims of genocide.
And today the community in Manchester, New Hampshire created the biggest Flower of Srebrenica in the world.
The Flower of Srebrenica was created as a symbol of hope. The eleven white petals represent July 11th, and are symbolically innocence. The green pistol inside represents the coffins that are traditionally draped in green. The women that created this flower wanted to send a message to the world that Srebrenica should never happen again.
We created our flower with 8372 Bosnian flags (the official first flag). Each flag has the name of a victim on the back that was hand-written by a volunteer. In many cases a survivor.
When we started making the flags, I sat next a woman as she wrote the names of her loved ones on the back of each flag. She kept going through the list and reminiscing about each and every member of her family that was killed. I sat there in awe of the courage and bravery that this woman had. I then asked survivors to tell me their stories and we would sit together and translate them. As I sat and listened to their stories, I was again in awe, overwhelmed by their courage and bravery. They had not only to survive the terrors of the concentration camps but to start a new life in a place completely unknown.
These people are the true example of the power of the human spirit and we are privileged to have them in our lives.
I urge you to listen to their stories shared around this anniversary, and pass these stories on. For these are not just stories, these are testimonials of what we as humans are capable of; both good and bad.
Today, 20 years later, survivors have come so far in their struggle to move forward yet the world still struggles with giving Srebrenica the justice it deserves. Earlier this week Russia vetoed the UN Resolution calling Srebrenica a genocide. The fact that the discussion of whether or not Srebrenica was a genocide, is still being debated 20 years later, shows how short a distance we have gone and how far we have to go.
The world abandoned Srebrenica 20 years ago, and it still continues to do so today. In 1945, after the US forces liberated Buchenwald, inmates put up signs that read, Never Again, and the world then said, Never Again. On July 11th, 1995, Never Again, became a false statement.
The goal of today, not just here in New Hampshire, but all over the world is to give respect to those innocent victims who died in Srebrenica. The goal of today is also to start a conversation around the world about the injustice that is Srebrenica. An injustice that we need to face and learn from so that we can with full confidence one day be able to say, Never Again.”
I immigrated from a town called Tuzla in Bosnia 15 years ago with my family. I was fortunate enough that my parents made a big emphasis on the importance of education. I graduated from the Derryfield School, and later from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in Biochemistry Cellular Molecular Biology and a concentration in Biophysics. As an immigrant I was very fortunate enough that the US and NH community took me in with open arms. I acclimated quickly and learned the language just as quickly.
I am 23, and currently a working professional soon to start a masters program. I am very grateful for the community and all the opportunity that I was given. The project a Srebrenica: A Day to Remember which now has been copyrighted started with a walk in Boston Common with my dear friends Sedjad and Fatima Masic. We saw thousands of flags placed to commemorate veterans. I thought we should do the same. We came up with the idea to make 8372 flags with the name of each victim on the back. We decided to use the first official flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina because that was the flag that the victims died under.
Later we decided to make the flags in a massive Flower of Srebrenica, with no intention of it being the biggest flower in the world. We then added a March for Survival and a testimonial section where youth in the community read stories from survivors, in many cases the youth were children of survivors.
The Bosnian community with no hesitation came to help us. Muamer Durakovic, who could not make it to the event because he had to be in Srebrenica for the official event joined me as my co-manager on this project. With the help of him, Sedjad, and Fatima Masic and the entire Bosnian community in NH we accomplished making the biggest flower and we did it all in less than 40 days. I started this project to commemorate the 20th anniversary and to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica. I also started this project for the survivors.
For years stories of what the survivors had endured have been circling the Bosnian community. We, Bosnians acclimating to the NH community for 15 plus years now. I felt that this anniversary was the time that we introduced ourselves truly.
I wanted the community to understand and learn what we as Bosnians had endured. The biggest injustice one can do to the victims of Genocide is to not inform people about it. How are we to stop this atrocity from continually happening if we do not inform the world about it? I hope that this Saturday we started a conversation in the community that would spread around the world. Srebrenica was a genocide. 8372 people were massacred. The world once again turned a blind eye. Lets not keep doing that.