By Latheef Farook
Early this month Bosnian Muslims observed the twenty eighth anniversary of the genocide of 8372 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica by Serbian soldiers.
Starting from July 11, 1995, for three days, the ethnic Serb forces gunned down Muslim men and boys in and around Srebrenica. The sight of their broken bodies lining roadsides, strewn across fields and dumped into mass graves forced the world’s eyes onto a broader campaign of ethnic cleansing.
It all started when five Muslims were killed in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a peaceful protest. Thus began the killing spree which ended up as the first ever genocide in Europe since World War 11. Some reports said around 100,000 were killed while others estimated the number at around 300,000 though no one knows to date the exact number of Muslims perished.
The irony is that these massacres took place under the watchful eyes of Washington, London and Paris. The United Nations was aware of the planned massacre but did nothing to protect the Muslim victims.The Dutch UN soldiers handed over the Bosnian Muslims, in the UN refugee camps, to Serbs knowing very well they were to be massacred.
In 1945, Bosnia-Herzegovina became a republic within the Yugoslav Socialist Federation. Even under President Tito Bosnian Muslims were defined as a separate nation and enjoyed the same rights as others until the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. In the multiethnic population of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in the heart of Europe, Muslims formed the largest group- Muslims around 44 %, Orthodox Serbs 31 % and Catholic Croats 17 %.
Problems began with the collapse of communism .Following a referendum in April 1992, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence and emerged as a separate country. The three communities had their own conflicting goals. For example, Muslims wanted a centralised independent Bosnia; Serbs were keen to remain in the rump Yugoslavia while Croats opted to join the independent Croatian state, resulting in the formation of a tactical alliance between Muslim and Croat nationalists out-voting Serbs. This incensed Serbs.
However vowing to defend Bosnian Serbs Yugoslavia’s President Slobodan Milosevic unleashed a wave of violence.
Between 1992 and 1995, Serbs committed some of the worst ever genocide against Muslims, who were detained , butchered and buried in mass graves, some of which are yet to be identified. Television footage of once healthy but starved, beaten, tortured and scantily dressed Muslims locked up by the hundreds in cattle-shed like enclosures spoke volumes for their plight. Inaction on the part of US and Europe to stop the genocide of Bosnian Muslims encouraged the Serbs to further intensify their carnage.
Even Bosnian Muslims themselves couldn’t believe their plight because those who were burning and destroying their homes, villages and killing them were none other than their own friends and neighbours with whom they had lived in harmony and peace for generations.
One of the mass graves
Two years after being designated a UN Safe Area; the Srebrenica enclave was under siege by Bosnian Serbs. Sensing the threat, around 15,000 Muslim fighters asked for the return of the weapons they had surrendered to UN peace keepers to protect themselves. This request was turned down by the UN knowing very well that Muslims were to be slaughtered by Serbs.
An eyewitness account said there were about 45,000 people; most of them were civilians who begged the Dutch UN soldiers to save them, by allowing them to stay at the base. But everyone was thrown out of the base and the Serbs took them away to be slaughtered, realising the worst fears of the Muslims.
The first massacre of unarmed Muslim civilians took place in a warehouse in the village of Kravica. In the five days after Bosnian Serb forces overran Srebrenica, the worst ever genocide of Muslims began and continued in full swing, uninterrupted for four days – turning the entire Srebrenica region into a slaughterhouse and the adjacent beautiful valleys into mass graveyards – some yet to be identified and victims unearthed.
Bosnian Genocide, August 1992. Manjaca concentration camp near Prijedor, north-west Bosnia. Thousands of civilians, Bosnian Muslims, were tortured and killed there. ( courtesy Photographer: Ron Haviv)
All, including the European and US governments and even the UN Security Council were well aware of the planned genocide. Former NATO Commander Wesley Clerk said that Milosevic had told him that he was aware a Srebrenica massacre was being planned, but nothing was done by anyone to prevent it.
Years later admitting the UN’s failure the former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had this to say in his 155 page report on the massacre of Srebrenica Muslims:
“The massacre of Muslims would forever haunt the UN which must accept partial responsibility for this massacre, in the UN “safe area”. The UN Security Council should have approved “more decisive and forceful action to prevent the unfolding horror”. The tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever and observers had been quick to blame the Dutch UN battalion which withdrew from Srebrenica in the face of Serb attack.
Kofi Annan said fall of Srebrenica was “shocking” because the enclave’s inhabitants had believed the UN and NATO would ensure their safety. Later a public inquiry into the Srebrenica massacre by a Dutch parliamentary commission held the Dutch Government political responsible for the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica.
The carnage in Bosnia ended, following the 1995 Dayton Peace Accord .
But for the people, conditions have not improved as their misery continues. Even today, peace remains fragile, ethnic tension persists, crime and corruption flourishes, economy devastated and unemployment rampant.
Meanwhile, on 11 March 2006, Slobodan Milosevic was found dead,believed to have been poisoned, in his prison cell at the UN detention centre in Hague.
Lamenting that he had died before being convicted, shocked and deeply disappointed relatives of hundreds of thousands of Milosevic’s victims accused the tribunal of failing to convict him for five long years despite hundreds of witnesses, tens of thousands of documents and other concrete evidences .The trial’s premature conclusion also raised questions about the conduct of tribunal judges who made key decisions that led to an exhausting, expensive five-year process sending US$200 million down the drain.
In fact seldom the world realised then that genocide of Bosnian Muslims was prelude to the worst ever “Crusade Against Islam and Muslims” by United States led NATO and Israeli which turned Muslim countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Algeria, Chechnya Iraq, Palestine, Libya, Syria and now Sudan being turned into killing fields and wastelands with millions killed and many more millions in refugee with an uncertain future.
Disclaimer: Bosnian Muslims observed “Srebrenica Genocide” Anniversary”
US and Europe knew but refused to prevent the genocide - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view