Claire Noone

Claire Noone (Bosnian Family - BOSFAM): Claire graduated in 2011 from Whitman Collage with a Bachelors Degree in Politics and a focus in human rights. She studied post-conflict transformation at the School for International Training in the Balkans, where she became deeply interested in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Claire wrote her thesis on the Bosnian electoral politics and ethnic division in Bosnia. She has also worked with migrants on the US/Mexico border, with environmental refugees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and for the rights of refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina. After her fellowship Claire wrote: “This fellowship reiterated my goal of getting to a place where I do not need to sit back and wait for someone to help me in order to get things done. I really enjoyed being part of a network that was small enough that it felt like a family, but had a global reach.”


18 Jul


No one gave birth to “Missing person 1735”. Each victim had a name, a family and a future. It is our duty to commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica genocide as people, as humans. 8,375 mothers, fathers, children, grandparents and infants were brutally massacred, for no reason other than their ethnic identity. Here is just one story of a life unjustly taken.


Alem Parić

Alem was born on an early spring morning in the Srebrenica hospital. His aunt, BOSFAM director Beba Hadzić, recalls the overwhelming excitement waiting at the hospital for his birth. He was the first son to his proud parents Rizo and Djefa and he was instantly adored. He lived an idyllic life as a boy and loved swimming in the cool waters of Lake Perućac at his family’s weekend home.  Before the war, Alem was in primary school. The hopes of Alem finishing secondary school, going to university in Sarajevo, getting married, and having a family, began to crumble as war gripped eastern Bosnia. In July of 1995, when Srebrenica fell, his Mother, father, sister and brother left for the UN Safezone in Potocari. Alem, who had just turned 17, knew that at his age he would be treated like an enemy soldier. Choosing instead to find a route through the mountains to safety, he left with his two other young neighbors. Alem got lost in the panic of the evacuation and no one in his family ever saw him again.

After the dust of the fall of Srebrenica settled, Alem and his father Rizo along with 8,373 other people were missing. His mother Djefa fled to Tuzla with his brother Ahmed and sister Alema. For years they ignored the gruesome reports and continued to search for Alem. Families from Srebrenica with missing children held out hope that their children had been spared. Stories from WWII where Nazis spared children fueled the hope that the Serb forces had been as humane. If Hitler saved the children, maybe Mladic did too! Alem’s extended family followed every lead, every rumor to its end; sending letters, making calls and paying investigators to search Serbia and Greece. Any shred of hope was clung to with desperation.

This February, 17 years after he went missing, his family got word that Alem’s remains had been identified. Beba recalls the moment when she sat in his mother’s kitchen to give her the news. Djefa, as with many other mothers with missing children, had held out hope. Even after burying her husband and her brother-in-laws, she held out hope. Beba says the moment she told her , she watched her perish right in front of her. The life fell out of her onto the floor. After hours of crying her first words were “I never believed that Alem was dead, I kept waiting for him to come home” Today she walks among the living, but she has died.


As a boy Alem lived and laughed on its shores, yet his violent death brought him to its silent depths. Alem’s remains were found in the caked mud at the bottom of Lake Perućac along with the remains of over 200 other Bosnian Muslims. Lake Perućac, is an artificial lake that straddles the border between Bosnia and Serbia. In July of 2010, the reservoir was drained for hydroelectric maintenance and it was then that the waterless lake revealed its grisly secret. The lake, which is 54 km long and 1,100 m wide, is considered to be the largest mass grave in Europe. More than 400 mass graves have been discovered in Bosnia after the last war, some containing more than 1000 bodies, but none as big as Lake Perućac. The search took place on both sides of the lake and covered 108 km. 24 of the victims were men and women were from the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, the other victims are believed to have been killed earlier in the war. In a brutal 1992 massacre in upriver in Visigrad where hundreds of men, women and children were killed on various bridges and dumped into the Drina river over a period of one month.

Volunteers successfully recovered the remains of over 250 people, however forensic investigators were forced to end the search as  Serbian authorities rushed to refill the lake. It is unlikely that Lake Perućac will be drained again for another 50 years. By that time, said Amor Masovic, it will be difficult to extract DNA from any bones that are found and many remains will disappear altogether. “I am afraid that thousands of people will stay buried under the lakes around Bosnia forever.” The exhumation was difficult not only for the gross scale of human remains, or the act of unearthing human bodies in various stages of saturated decomposition, the slimy lake bottom is still littered with unexploded ordnance from grenades through to full-scale anti-tank mines.

Lake Perućac, on the border between Bosnia and Serbia, is the site of one of the largest mass graves in eastern Bosnia

Lake Perućac, on the border between Bosnia and Serbia, is the site of one of the largest mass graves in eastern Bosnia


Not only did the perpetrators of genocide deny thousands of civilians of their lives, but they also denied their families the right to knowing what happened to their loved ones, and a proper burial. Thousands of victims remain missing, yet their fates and grave locations are known by many who choose to remain silent. 17 long and painful years after the Srebrenica genocide, 520 newly identified victims were reburied with proper honor and religious ritual. On the July 11th Anniversary over 40,000 mourners gathered at the Potocari Genocide Memorial Cemetery to honor the victims and unite in their ongoing search for justice and peace. Below is a video that documents the memorial ceremony and the long awaited burial of young Alem Paric.

Thank you to Alem’s wonderful  family for their permission in sharing this video with the world. It is the undeniable strength of his mother Djefa,  brother Ahmed and sister Alema that gives humanity hope. Genocide is a crime against humanity, and the death of a child is the ultimate abomination. In sharing their story, it becomes all of ours, their heavy burden of remembrance and healing is now shared.

Posted By Claire Noone

Posted Jul 18th, 2012

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