Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica’s fall to Republika Srpska forces, which led within the following week to what the Hague’s criminal tribunal has since determined to be the massacre of 7000-8000 mostly male Bosnian Muslim civilians and POWs (ranging from minors to pensioners). In addition to proving how ineffective the UN peacekeeping was at protecting its designated “safe areas,” it also was the culmination of the ethnic cleansing that had been taking place in Prijedor, Višegrad, Goražde, and elsewhere over the course of the four years prior. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) determined “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the massacre was premeditated, mobilized for, and executed with genocidal intent (see the trial’s findings distilled on their newly minted commemorative website here, from which the infographic on the left is taken). Yet, genocide denial is at its peak: Serbia claims that acknowledging it would increase ethnic divisions in Bosnia, and Russia used its UN security council veto on Wednesday to block the UN’s resolution to politically recognize the court’s genocide judgment. It’s true: both conservative Serb and conservative Muslim politicians have exploited Srebrenica commemoration to enhance their political images. But, refusing to acknowledge the tragedy will not make it go away. As Samantha Powers argued earlier this week, denying it happened will more likely impede reconciliation than smooth over the process. In the midst of all of the news and social media chatter focused on naming what happened as genocide or not, I’d like to point your attention to a few creative cultural memory projects and resources that respond to Srebrenica at a more human level. Consider taking some time with one or more of the following as a way of reflecting on this important, if difficult, anniversary.
The thoroughly researched and well-laid out permanent exhibit at Sarajevo’s Galerija 11/07/95 is built around a moving exhibit of Srebrenica themed photographs by Tarik Samarah. You can see many of the photos on his artist website. Rather than the abstraction of numerical death tolls and dates, the exhibit’s supplementary installations emphasize the human face, the human voice, and narrative reflection. The walls of one room are covered with headshots and names of 8372 of those killed, for example. Another provides video of first-person narratives told by the survivors, in the model of oral history projects.
With lower production values than the rest of the exhibit, the animated map “Srebrenica: Mapping Genocide” nonetheless supplies a useful and easily accessible pedagogical tool for parsing the often confusing profusion of names, places, dates, and sources through which the events are reconstructed. Documents, reports, and video are presented in chronological order and spatially on a map of the events. While the site provides 220 minutes of content, its navigable format make it a useful tool for those trying to pull all of the evidence together.
In addition to all of the more official commemorations that have already begun in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbian journalist Dušan Mašić (@dusanmasic) is planning a commemorative demonstration in Belgrade for the Saturday anniversary. Organized under the hashtag #sedamhiljada (#7000), he hopes to gather enough people to replicate the Hague Tribunal acknowledged number of victims to demonstrate in front of Serbia’s National Assembly. While less than 3000 have registered to attend (as of today), the protest should put pressure on politicians otherwise determined to look the other way.
Finally, Andrea Rehn’s (@Profrehn) post on DH and Social Justice seems an appropriate concluding reference for today. For more general ways of combining Digital Humanities and social justice projects, see some of her recommendations here.