Eleven years ago one of the most horrific massacres in living memory took place in Srebrenica, Bosnia. Around 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically killed when the east Bosnian town fell to the Serb army.
The war crimes tribunal at The Hague described the massacre as ‘genocide.’
Mass graves containing the victims are still being unearthed. Millions of lives have been scarred forever.
New Graves at Srebrenica Memorial
Last year, July 11th marked the tenth anniversary of the massacre. Around 600 victims were finally laid to rest at the Srebrenica Memorial and Cemetery in Potocari, Srebrenica. This year another 500 newly identified bodies will be buried on the anniversary.
Only around 2,000 victims of the massacre have been identified and buried so far, while more than 3,000 body bags containing the remains of massacre victims still await DNA identification.
Families of the missing have given blood samples to help identify their loved ones but thousands of widows and mothers still have no news of what happened to their husbands and sons. For them, the missing remain in limbo between the living and the dead. They have no graves to visit and offer their prayers, no information to help them come to terms with their grief.
Photograph © Wendell Phillips
Srebrenica Memorial Prayer
"In the name of God the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate
We pray to Almighty God,
May grievance become hope
May revenge become justice
May mothers' tears become prayers
Never happens again
To no-one and nowhere."
Grave Planted With Flowers
Many survivors are too afraid to return to their pre-war homes in Srebrenica and still live in temporary accommodation in Tuzla or Sarajevo. Those brave enough to return have found burnt-out shells where their family homes once stood. The factories they worked in have been destroyed and with unemployment in the country at 40%, there are few opportunities to earn a sustainable living.
Srebrenica Widow And Orphan
Many Bosnian widows are struggling to survive because they are not literate or skilled enough to find employment. They raise their orphaned children on the small Widow's Pension provided by the state which is too small to cover basic costs such as healthcare.
Islamic Relief has been working in Bosnia since 1992, before the start of the war that left 200,000 Bosnian Muslims dead and at least 2 million homeless. Our work has helped thousands of widows and war-affected families to return to their pre-war homes and rebuild their lives.
Srebrenica Widow, Sida Sits By The Remains Of Her Home And Dreams Of Rebuilding Her Life
Our interest-free loans help Bosnian families return to their home-towns and rebuild their war-damaged homes. Sida, aged 51, is a war widow who lives in a one-roomed hut she constructed on the site of her former home. Her husband and son were both killed in the war and her two-storey house was destroyed. Sida’s life has been devastated by the war but she is glad to be living on her own land again.
Jasmine applied for an Islamic Relief loan to help start a strawberry business.
Islamic Relief loans also help families start up small businesses such as bee-keeping, farming and bakeries. Jasmine applied for an Islamic Relief loan to help start a strawberry business after she returned to her village and found there were no jobs. Using the profits from the business she was soon able to repay the loan and apply for another to repair her home.
Jasmine witnessed so many horrors that she said she lost her ability to smile. Now she is living in her repaired home and recently became a grandmother, and as her life regains normality her smile is returning too.
Memories of happier times: photos of Sida’s son, Sabrija, at a party
The horrific events at Srebrenica will continue to haunt survivors. Even those who anxiously await news of what happened to their loved ones need to come to terms with the tragedy and restore some normality to their lives.
Over a decade after the war, Islamic Relief is helping many families rebuild their lives by reconstructing their homes and helping them become self-sufficient once again.