Laila Zulkaphil

Laila Zulkaphil (Bosnian Women’s Group – BOSFAM): Laila’s family is from Kazakhstan. She was born and raised in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and speaks English, Russian, Kazakh, Mongolian, and Bulgarian. In 2005, Laila entered the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) on a full Soros Scholarship. She graduated in 2009 with a BA and honors. At the time of her fellowship, Laila was pursuing a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution with a concentration in Human Rights at Georgetown University. Prior to her deployment, Laila interned at The Advocacy Project’s DC office. After her fellowship, Laila wrote: “I have been greatly inspired by the amazing women of Bosfam. Despite all the pain and hardship they have been through, they are able to stay strong, cheerful, and optimistic. They never give up; they never lose hope. As a result of this fellowship, I will avoid favoring a certain group based on ethnic or religious identity."

“…I wanna know what happened. And I am sorry.”

08 Jun

Flying to Sarajevo turned out to be much more expensive than I expected. So, I decided to fly to Belgrade and take a bus from there to Tuzla. My itinerary also allowed me the opportunity to meet some old friends from Serbia.

The people I met in Serbia were interested to know the purpose of my stay in Bosnia. I noticed mainly two kinds of reactions when I told them about my fellowship. While most people simply changed the subject as soon as they heard the name Srebrenica, others became defensive and emphasized “their own” suffering. One of my acquaintances said, “Your fellowship sounds very interesting, but I am afraid that you might hear only one side of the story. It is true that more Muslims were killed in Srebrenica, but a lot of Serbs also died during the war. You should remember that every story has at least two sides.”

However, something very surprising happened on my last night in Belgrade. A friend of mine suddenly told me, “I am sorry.” “For what?” I asked without understanding what he was referring to. He said, “It is very sad that most Serbs avoid talking about anything related to Srebrenica. They simply don’t wanna know what happened. It will probably take another five or ten years until Serbs can finally talk about this subject. But I do wanna know what happened. And I am sorry.”

This short conversation truly touched me, perhaps because it was genuinely sincere or because I never expected to hear something like this from my friend whom I tended to see as a Serb nationalist. I wish more people had the same attitude as my friend – not necessarily the apologetic attitude but the curious attitude – because we can learn from the past and build a better future only by wanting to know about what happened free from personal and group prejudices.

Posted By Laila Zulkaphil

Posted Jun 8th, 2010

1 Comment

  • Owen

    June 25, 2010


    Your friend had the ability to allow other people’s suffering to have his attention, instead of insisting on “his own”. It’s people who are themselves prepared to listen whom we feel comfortable listening to in turn.

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