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Bosnian Genocide by Dr Hojjat Ramzy

Posted by peacedevelopmentnetwork on February 1, 2010

Bosnian Genocide by Dr Hojjat Ramzy

Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends,

Dr Hojjat Ramzi

I greet you all with the Islamic greetings of the peace and mercy of Almighty God,  Assalamu alaykum wa Rahmatullah.

The Holocaust Memorial Day which took place on January 27th marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Aushwitz concentration camp.

We all sympathise deeply with the victims and are horrified at the scale of brutality that took place during the Second World War. However, History has a terrible way of repeating itself.

Today I would like to remind you of another horror story, the Bosnian genocide: Another manifestation of the complete disregard for the sanctity of human life. I hope that we can learn lessons from this tragedy;  in the same way we have done from the Holocaust, in order to prevent such terrible events from ever happening again. God willing.

After the First World War Bosnia was united with other Slaav territories to form Yugoslavia. It was ruled and run by Serbs. Following the death of Tito the communist ruler of Yugoslavia and the national Yugoslavian elections in 1990, both Serbia and Bosnia declared their independence. Bosnia’s independence was recognised by the USA and the European Union. However,   the Serbian Leader Milosevich and the Serbs saw this as an affront to their claims to Milosevich’s ‘Greater Serbia’.

Tensions grew between the two sides and the Yugoslav army turned against the Bosnian community. The European Union’s attempts at intervention failed and the UN, who provided a number of troops for humanitarian aid, refused to intervene. Slowly the Bosnian Muslim areas fell to the Serbs and the ethnic cleansing began. The atrocities that were to take place in the town of Srebrenitsa illustrate one of the most horrifying episodes of this war where brutality and military efficiency turned into genocide.

In 1992, the UN declared this city a safe area, under the care of the French and Dutch governments. In July 1995 Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic descended on Srebrenitsa and began to destroy it. They had already killed many Muslim soldiers in the countryside villages. Now they were besieging Srebrenitsa’s thousands of Muslim civilians. Food supplies and water began to decline, buildings were destroyed, and people were murdered. Soon Serb troops were able to take up positions close to the town. In Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo, a radio message from an amateur operator in Srebrenitsa was heard: ‘Please do something. Whatever you can. In the name of God, do something.’ No one did anything.

The only action taken was the Dutch commander warned Serb officials that there would be air strikes at 6.00 a.m. on the morning of July 11 unless Serbian troops moved away from the town’s borders. But, there were no air strikes, instead, the Serbs’ bombardment intensified. Thousands of Muslims fled to the Dutch compound. Throughout the day a stream of refugees was slowly admitted inside: up to 6,000 by nightfall and around 20,000 more were left waiting outside. There was no food, no water, only fear of mass murder.

The following morning Dutch troops and the Muslims heard that Mladic had made a promise: He said that everyone would be allowed to leave Serb territory, but the men would have to be screened first, so that criminals could be detected. Meanwhile, Serb troops quietly surrounded the Dutch HQ.

Soon a large number of trucks and buses arrived. Serb troops separated the men from women and children outside the UN compound. Women and children were forced on to the trucks and buses. As they were driven away gunfire echoed round the hills. Muslim men fell like the leaves of the trees on a cold windy autumn day.

The following day the trucks returned to take more women and children away. There were now no men to be seen. By noon the Serbs were ready to deal with the remaining thousands inside the camp. The deportation of Srebrenitsa’s population took 4 days.

The UN assisted but didn’t foresee and couldn’t prevent what was about to happen: Up to 7,500 men, and boys were killed. They were marched to their places of death. Up to 3,000, many in the act of trying to escape, were shot or decapitated. 1,500 were locked in a warehouse and sprayed with machine gun fire and grenades. Others were killed in their thousands on farms, football fields and school playgrounds. The whole action was carried out with military efficiency. Thousands of the bodies were buried in mass graves.

The women did not escape the brutality either. During the Bosnian War huge numbers of women were raped, estimated at 20 to 50,000. This has been referred to as mass rape, particularly with regard to the coordinated use of rape as a weapon of war.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia declared that systematic rape, and sexual enslavement in time of war was a crime against humanity, second only to the war crime of genocide. Bosnia had been the victim of one group’s determined wish for political domination, which it was prepared to achieve by isolating ethnic groups and if necessary exterminating them.

In 1999 the UN completed its own enquiry into the fall of Srebrenitsa, and faced its shame, admitting: ‘Through error, misjudgement, and an inability to recognise the scope of the evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to save the people of Srebrenitsa from the Serb campaign of mass murder.’

The harshest criticism was directed at the Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali. Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadich have both been declared war criminals. The prosecution at the Hague said ‘This is a case about the triumph of evil, professional soldiers who organised, planned and willingly participated in the genocide, or stood silent in the face of it,’.

In conclusion I would like to say that we cannot afford to let the memory of the Bosnian genocide be lost in the pages of history, we must learn from it, act upon it  and never forget the pain and suffering of the innocent victims in order to make sure that such tragic events, never happen again.

I finish with the words of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who issued a statement in the year 2000 on the anniversary of the genocide in Bosnia saying: ‘The tragedy of Srebrenitsa will forever haunt the history of the United Nations. This day commemorates a massacre on a scale unprecedented in Europe since the second world war – a massacre of people who had been led to believe that the UN would ensure their safety. We cannot undo this tragedy, but it is vitally important that the right lessons be learned and applied in the future.’

Dear friends of peace,

Let us pray for peace to prevail worldwide.

Let us pray that man takes advice from these events and never submits to the evil depths that we have witnessed during such atrocities.

I thank you all for listening. God bless you all.

Mr Mohammed Khokhar, Community Liaison Officer, Muslim Aid and Dr Hojjat Ramzy

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