Tim Tan Huynh

Srebrenica massacre

11 Jul 2015 — Today is the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. Bosnian Serb forces systematically killed over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim males. The incident is viewed along sectarian lines and is still contentious in the region.

I studied this incident a decade ago, in a world-history course that covered the 20th century after the Second World War. I forgot most of the details except for the central fact that all males of a certain age in a Bosnian town were rounded up and summarily executed. After re-freshing my memory, I should have remembered that Srebrenicia had been declared as a UN safe haven and that the Bosnian Serbs had been Orthodox Christians.

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic of neighboring Serbia, which backed the ethnic Serbs in Bosnia during the civil war, attended the ceremony in Srebrenica. He was, not surprisingly, taunted with Muslim chants and pelted with thrown objects. Former President Bill Clinton, who was in office during the war, enjoyed a much better reception, but he did praise his Serbian peer for showing up.

Serbia has condemned the massacre, but naturally, the country doesn’t want the incident to be labelled with any negative connotations; Serbia’s ally Russia has recently vetoed a UN Security Council move that would officially refer to the massacre as “genocide” (UN News Centre). In any case, the massacre is a black eye for the UN: apparently, inadequate preparation let the Bosnia Serb forces take Srebrenica with relative ease (BBC).

The females in Srebenica were, in fact, moved to the safety of Muslim areas before the killings; presumably boys younger than 12 years old and men older than 77 years old were also spared. The argument could be made that the Bosnian Serbs had merely been carrying out calculated military strategy. However, combat kills and summary executions are totally different, so this argument is weak. The UN agrees: their ICTY has convicted 14 people to date (BBC).

I would expect Srebrenica to be more of a household name. The deaths of more than 7,000 people within a period days, whether due to force of nature or act of man, is not something that usually gets ignored. To be honest, the anniversary has almost sneaked past me, but this type of sectarian-based massacre is that something the world could see again, in Iraq or Syria or anywhere else, really.

On the web, I see the Muslim faith being derisively referred to as The Religion of Peace, usually whenever somebody carries out a highly publicized, terrorist attack in the Western World as part of some militant Islamic ideal. These smart alecks really should read about Srebrenica.