Today April 5th, remembering the Bosnian Genocide

Hi everyone,

Srebrenica Bodies

Click here to see our recommendations of good books and films about the Genocide in Bosnia.

April is here and as you are likely aware by now, it is the very first time the state of California has given it the official designation as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.  In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.  We will be sending you emails this month noting each of the commemorative dates and encouraging you to make use of the Resource List as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.

April 5th marks the start of the Bosnian Genocide. On this day in 1992, the government of Bosnia declared its independence from Yugoslavia, which immediately prompted the Bosnian leaders to launch a war to create a separate state.  An estimated 100,000 people were killed 80% of which were ‘Bosniak’ civilians was eventually labelled a genocide.

In the late-1980’s, the heterogeneous Yugoslav federation began to cleave along ethnic lines. Civil war erupted in 1992 against a backdrop of increasingly nationalist politics, including the idea of “Greater Serbia”. Between 1992 and 1995, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks soldiers and paramilitaries used widespread use of rape, torture and forcible displacement against civilians. The actions of some Serb units were particularly heinous, featuring attempts to eliminate non-Serb culture, a tactic soon to be known as “ethnic cleansing”. Across Bosnia and Herzegovina civilians were herded into camps as small scale massacres were committed. The most notorious of these was the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, when more than 7,500 Bosniak men and boys in the U.N.-safe area, were executed by forces under General Radko Mladic. The estimates for the human cost of the Bosnian civil wars range from 96,000 to 200,000, with a recent University of Washington-Harvard University study placing the fatalities near 167,000.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition [link]
Click here to see our recommended list of books and films about the Bosnia Genocide.

As we approach this remembering, there is no getting away from the horror that is inextricably linked to genocide. Yet, in contrast to the utter inhumanity of genocide, it is hard to point to anything more genuinely human than the act of remembering.  When we remember, we demonstrate the willingness the hold another in mind and absorb their story allowing it to become part of us.  We hope you will use this Resource List on Bosnia as a way to learn more of the stories.

On this day, holding the people of Bosnia in our hearts,

Barbara & Anshul
Orange County for Darfur, a project of Living Ubuntu
ocfordarfur.org
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Good books and films about the Bosnian Genocide

Srebrenica Bodies

Srebrenica Massacre, also known as the Srebrenica Genocide, was the killing in July of 1995 of an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by Bosnian Serb forces

April is Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month. In honor of this, we have compiled a Resource List of books and films themed around each of the past genocides that have commemorative dates in April, plus the areas that we cover.

We hope you will make use of this list as a way to both remember these genocides, and learn more about them.  We begin with the Bosnian Genocide.

Recommended Books:

A Witness to Genocide: The 1993 Pulitzer Prize-Winning Dispatches on the “Ethnic Cleansing” of Bosnia, Roy Gutman
Gutman presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning releases that he wrote, between December 1991 and June 1993, describing in detail the violence of nationalist Serbs, the deportation of Muslims, the systematic rape, and other horrors from the battlefields of Bosnia.

Bosnia: A Short History, by Noel Malcolm
Malcolm contends that “ethnic cleansing” is not a by-product of the mid-90’s war but a central element in the Serbian goal of creating homogeneous Serb enclaves that eventually will join together in a Greater Serbia.  He reaches back to Turkish occupation, Austro-Hungarian rule, both world wars and the era of Stalinist oppression under Toti in order to explain the origins of conflict in Bosnia.

Necessary Targets: A Story of Women and War, by Eve Ensler
Two American women–a well-heeled New York psychiatrist and her younger colleague–travel to a refugee camp intending to help Bosnian women “tell their stories” after the brutal war in Yugoslavia.  Inexperienced in the field, the doctor learns to stop patronizing and start listening, while her more brittle companion retreats into therapeutic jargon.

Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia, by Beverly Allen
The systematic rape of Muslim and Croat women as part of the “ethnic cleansing” campaign in the former Yugoslavia is by now common knowledge.  Allen explains the twisted logic by which perpetrators consider the act as cancelling the victim’s cultural identity.

Safe Area Gorazde, by Joe Sacco
Sacco spent five months in Bosnia in 1996, immersing himself in the human side of life during wartime, researching stories that are rarely found in conventional news coverage, emerging with this astonishing first-person account.  The book focuses on the Muslim-held enclave of Gorazde, which was besieged by Bosnian Serbs during the war.

Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime, by Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both
The book details the final battle for Srebrenica and the murder of its men, attempts to explain why the Bosnian Serbs committed such a horrific act of genocide, and analyzes why the  international community sleep-walked into the disaster.

The Bridge Betrayed, by Michael A. Sells
Sells lays down a solid background of the origins of the recent systematic destruction of the Bosnian Muslims and explains the Serbian attitude that religion equals nationality.  He also blasts the UN, NATO, and the West for not becoming more involved in stopping the crimes against the Bosnians.

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
Inspired by Vedran Smailovic, the cellist who, in 1992, played in a bombed-out Sarajevo square for 22 days in memory of the 22 people who were killed by a mortar attack, this is a novel about four people trying to maintain a semblance of their humanity in the besieged city.

The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar, by Eric Stover and Gilles Peress
The account of forensic anthropologists’ work who reconstructed erased lives from scraps of bone and cloth, accompanied by photographs by journalist Gilles Peress, makes for disturbing but hopeful reading—hopeful because, through such documentation, the perpetrators may eventually be brought to justice.

Recommended Films:

Belvedere
Belvedere tells the story of the lonely lives of mostly female relatives of massacre victims, who spend their days wandering from mass grave to identification center, hoping to find the remains of their sons, brothers, husbands and fathers.

Grbavica: the Land of My Dreams
Set in Sarajevo’s Bosnian neighborhood, Grbavica is a gripping love story between a mother and daughter struggling against prejudice and poverty.  The film provides viewers a glimpse into daily Croatian life, by finessing tragedy and comedy into one story.  It is a tale that represents women and children affected by war, in their loss and strengthened love that promotes healing.

No Man’s Land
This film follows the story of three soldiers.  Fleeing enemy fire, an injured Bosnian soldier named Čiki retreats to a trench, where he finds himself trapped with a wounded comrade and a Serbian.  With no way to escape and with his fellow soldier lying on a spring-loaded bomb set to explode if he moves, Čiki realizes he must do the unthinkable, trust his enemy, if he wants to survive.

Snow (Snijeg)
In a remote Bosnian village, wartime survivors attempt to keep the memories of their loved ones alive.  But when the first snow threatens further isolation, the stage is set for a final confrontation with the outside world.

Statement 710399
This documentary focuses on the indvidual stories of four men who survived the genocide in Srebrenica and who were taken in by a Serb family; only to disappear again.

The Abandoned (Ostavljeni)
From the screenwriter:  a “look at the Bosnian war through the eyes of a boy who was born not as the fruit of love, but of hatred, and is part of a whole new people, nameless and unwanted, whose mothers were raped, and the search for identity, the search for his biological parents, who, each with his or her own reasons, do not want him – him, clean, sinless, innocent in everything, uninvolved in the sins of other.”

Background on the Bosnian Genocide: In the late-1980’s, the heterogeneous Yugoslav federation began to cleave along ethnic lines. Civil war erupted in 1992 against a backdrop of increasingly nationalist politics, including the idea of “Greater Serbia”. Between 1992 and 1995, Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks soldiers and paramilitaries used widespread use of rape, torture and forcible displacement against civilians. The actions of some Serb units were particularly heinous, featuring attempts to eliminate non-Serb culture, a tactic soon to be known as “ethnic cleansing”. Across Bosnia and Herzegovina civilians were herded into camps as small scale massacres were committed. The most notorious of these was the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, when more than 7,500 Bosniak men and boys in the U.N.-safe area, were executed by forces under General Radko Mladic. The estimates for the human cost of the Bosnian civil wars range from 96,000 to 200,000, with a recent University of Washington-Harvard University study placing the fatalities near 167,000. Violence against civilians in Yugoslavia led to the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia in 1993.

– From GI-Net / Save Darfur Coalition (link)


Compiled by Paulina Robles and Barbara English of Orange County for Darfur and Martina Knee of the San Francisco Bay Area Darfur Coalition.

President Obama mentions Darfur in speech to Muslims

President Barack Obama recently spoke Cairo University “outlining his personal commitment to engagement with the Muslim world, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.”

And he mentioned Darfur.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

I am consistently impressed by President Obama’s ability to speak honestly and eloquently about such difficult issues.   I would highly recommend watching the complete speech (Darfur is mentioned at the 12min mark).

Read the complete transcript of the speech

Obama and McCain discuss the use of force in humanitarian crisis

Senators Barack Obama and John McCain discussed the role of the United States in humanitarian crisis at last night’s debate.  The holocaust, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur came up.

Highlights from Senator Obama

We may not always have national security issues at stake, but we have moral issues at stake…

So when genocide is happening, when ethnic cleansing is happening somewhere around the world and we stand idly by, that diminishes us.

Let’s take the example of Darfur just for a moment. Right now there’s a peacekeeping force that has been set up and we have African Union troops in Darfur to stop a genocide that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at relatively little cost to us, but we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead. And that’s what I intend to do when I’m president.

Highlights from Senator McCain

The United States of America, Tom, is the greatest force for good, as I said.  And we must do whatever we can to prevent genocide, whatever we can to prevent these terrible calamities that we have said never again.

… you have to temper your decisions with the ability to beneficially affect the situation and realize you’re sending America’s most precious asset, American blood, into harm’s way.

And I may have to make those tough decisions. But I won’t take them lightly. And I understand that we have to say never again to a Holocaust and never again to Rwanda. But we had also better be darn sure we don’t leave and make the situation worse, thereby exacerbating our reputation and our ability to address crises in other parts of the world.

—–

Watch the entire debate on CNN.

Read the debate transcript.