Each year on July 11th, many activists and officials from around the world attend the Srebrenica Genocide Commemoration in Potocari, Bosnia. This year I had the honor of joining Women in Black on their trip to the commemoration. You can see a quick summary of the day’s events in the video below (pay special attention to the caskets towards the end).
As you saw in the video, even though it’s been fourteen years since the genocide, victims’ bodies and body parts are still being found. Fourteen years later and families are still burying 534 bodies! Fourteen years later and these families are just getting the chance to get closure from the atrocities? And there are so many families that will still find their mother’s or father’s or son’s or daughter’s or sister’s or brother’s body, or maybe just a finger or a leg. How are they ever supposed to get closure and move on? Fourteen years seems like a long time and seems long enough to recover and heal. But I don’t know how these families can move on when they have yet to find their family members and bury them. I don’t have words to express the sadness of this situation.
I don’t think there’s anything an activist organization can do to heal the wounds of victims’ families, but I do think that activists can do their best to offer families support. Women in Black has been the only Serbian organization to show solidarity to victims’ families. And it is clear that this solidarity and support is appreciated by Bosnians. Let me explain.
At the commemoration, I was fortunate enough to meet the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia, a Congressman from Ohio and his wife. My co-fellow, Donna, and I were talking about how much easier it is to meet international officials when you are abroad than when you are in your own country. Since the number of English-speaking individuals, especially from America, is so limited here, Donna and I always get introduced to other Americans in the vicinity. This happens when there is another student like ourselves around, or even when there are high-up officials like the Ambassador and Congressman – it’s great. We most likely would not have been introduced to them back home.
Even though I’m going off on a tangent, the reason I bring this up is because of something very special the Congressman’s wife, Laurie, said to me and Donna. WIB left Belgrade at 6am but still arrived to the commemoration a few minutes late due to heavy traffic right outside of Potocari. So Laurie told us that a collective gasp came over the crowd when WIB walked on to the site. This was another moment that made me very proud of the organization I’m working with this summer. To know that WIB is making a difference to the families of victims is reason enough to love the work they are doing.
It’s also great that Bosnians support WIB’s work, even though many of the activists are Serbian. I’m happy to see that Bosnians have not gotten wrapped up into nationalistic stereotypes by holding grudges against all Serbians because of the atrocities that certain Serbs committed against them.
Posted By Simran Sachdev
Posted Jul 14th, 2009