On day three of the ‘Justice in Action’ project, the entire group travelled to Srebrenica – where the infamous massacre of 8000 men and boys occurred. You couldn’t help but take notice of the shelled buildings that emphasised the hardship of the citizens – a visual reminder so that the city and its survivors are never forgotten.
With us on our journey was a man named Muhammad, a survivor from Srebrenica. On the way we stopped at a tunnel on Asphalt Road which was a particularly significant part of his survival story; on arrival at this site he knew that his safety was ensured. We stopped the coach at the tunnel and stepped out to ask him some questions about what it felt like when he first arrived here almost 20 years ago. Even we could feel the relief and joy through his words as he explained that he was welcomed at this site by Bosnian soldiers on the frontline cheering him on, and a man waiting to register his name as a survivor.
Afifa, Aishah and I had the opportunity to ask further questions about Muhammad’s story and his view of justice in the Srebrenica memorial room. This was the room in the Dutch base camp where thousands of Bosnians had sought refuge from the Serbs, but were let down. The spacious, grey room displayed some very poignant photographs as well as very disturbing ones. There was a section that had pictures of some of the victims and what (objects) were left at the time they were found. We all went around browsing the pictures, and one in particular completely shocked me. There was one photograph that had documented a conversation between the Serbs regarding the disposal of dead corpses. Even though these people were no longer alive, the Serbs in particular treated them worse than animals – and that is an understatement. It absolutely horrifies me to think that even after killing them in the most brutal way possible, the dead did not even ‘rest in peace’ as they received no respect, no compassion and no proper burial. Despite what happened here, it was amazing to hear Muhammad express his strong belief in justice, and hope for the future. He said that to him, justice “is a dream I would like to live… this is why I came back from the States to live in Srebrenica, to rebuild my community”.
We then walked through a forest area in which Muhammad continued the riveting story of his journey from Srebrenica. At only 20, he chose to leave Srebrenica on foot towards Zepa– and survived. His active role in seeking justice is inspiring and motivates me to be more involved; he has projects to educate young people; the leaders of tomorrow, about what happened in Bosnia so they can ensure these atrocities can never occur again. It was clear to us all that this entire city still has a lot to heal from and that the genocide will never be forgotten no matter how many buildings are repaired or rebuilt; Srebrenica will not be forgotten.