SARAJEVO – Thousands of Bosnian Muslims gathered on Monday to bury 127 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, twenty-one years after thousands of Muslims were butchered by Serbs in the worst genocide in Europe.
“How can anyone say this was not a genocide?” Nura Suljic, 57, told Reuters pointing at endless rows of white marble tombstones in the flower-shaped Potocari memorial cemetery near Srebrenica, where more than 6,300 victims are now interred.
Suljic buried her brother after his bones were found in three different mass graves.
Bosnia fell into civil war in 1992 that left 200,000 people dead and displaced millions as Serb forces launched ethnic cleansing campaign against Bosnian Muslims.
In the final months of the three-year war, Serb forces, led by General Ratko Mladic, overran Srebrenica, killing some 8,000 Muslim men and boys.
The 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre was marked earlier this month with special ceremonies across the world.
For Muslim Bosniaks, Srebrenica has become a symbol of collective suffering and July burials of victims an annual ritual.
July 11, the start of the five-day massacre, was made a national day of mourning by Bosnia’s weak post-war central government comprised of Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosnian chairman of Bosnia’s three-person inter-ethnic presidency and son of its late wartime president, urged Serbs to face up to historical facts.
“Acceptance and recognition of the truth is the first step toward genuine trust,” he said.
Thousands of grieving families stood by green-draped coffins in sweltering mid-summer heat, some kneeling, crying and hugging the caskets before they were lowered into freshly-dug graves.
“All I have been left with are these three cold stones I can hug instead of my two sons and husband, and a grief I will carry in my heart until I die,” said 67-year-old Nezira Memic.