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."

Srebrenica will never be forgotten

12 Jun

On the 11th of every month a peaceful protest is held in Tuzla against the international community’s failure to arrest the leaders responsible for the Srebrenica massacre which took place around 11 July 1995. Yesterday, I had a chance to witness one of these protests.

At 12pm a group of more than 100, consisting of the victims’ relatives, NGO representatives, and other members of the community, walked from Tuzla’s famous salt lake to the town’s main square which was recently renamed “Victims of the Srebrenica Genocide.” They circled around the square, prayed together, and were interviewed by the media. The participants were holding over 300 cushions with embroideries of the names of missing persons.

. “We are looking for our missing”

The cushions were made by Bosfam weavers as part of a project “Love in Embroidery.” Bosfam started the project in 1996 to make an embroidered cushion for each missing person containing his name, date of birth, and hometown. “To our dearest who have not come yet – let us write their names again, let us write them in love” is the motto of the project. The women of Bosfam have so far made thousands of cushions, which are used at the monthly protest to show the immensity of the tragedy of Srebrenica and demand accountability for the mass crimes.

I have heard so many times from practitioners, academicians, and journalists that the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre are trapped in the cycle of victimhood and are living in their past. They would say that such protests only serve to perpetuate the perception of victimhood and would prevent the society from “moving on.” But how can you simply “move on” after such a massive life-changing tragedy? There is a woman named Hajrija in Bosfam who lost about 50 relatives – virtually all of her closest family. Is it even humanly possible to ask her to “move on”?

The relatives of several Bosfam members will be buried on the 15th anniversary of the massacre on July 11. A weaver called Sadeta was about to bury his son this year as some remains of his body were found and identified. However, the Missing Persons Institute told Sadeta that the rest of her son’s body might be found in a recently-discovered mass grave, so she decided to wait until next year (The Bosnian Serb Army dug out the mass graves and reburied the bodies in secondary and tertiary graves, so one person’s body can be found in several different graves). I have not met Sadeta yet because she is not coming to work these days. I cannot by any means understand the depth of pain she is going through right now, but I understand why she would be unable to work at this time. After all, how can you concentrate when part of your own child’s body is kept in a bag in a cold morgue while the rest of his body is being excavated in a new mass grave?

Posted By Laila Zulkaphil

Posted Jun 12th, 2010


  • Washington

    June 14, 2010


    Thank you for a great post

  • That is very intriguing. It presented me a few ideas and I’ll be posting them on my web site shortly. I’m bookmarking your website and I’ll be back. Thanks again!

  • Owen

    June 25, 2010


    The “cycle of victimhood” is an offensive notion. As you say, how can people “move on” when someone else tells them to?

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