The families of newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide are preparing to bury their loved ones, 25 years after they were gunned down by Serb forces.
Nine newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide will be buried this year in the village of Potocari, northwest of Srebrenica, on Saturday to mark the genocide’s 25th anniversary.
Bajro Salihovic, one of the victims, was killed by Serb forces during the genocide and his body was found in one of the mass graves after decades of being lost.
Bajro’s son, Bahrudin Salihovic, told Anadolu Agency that he was not willing to wait anymore to collect all of his father’s bones, many of which remain missing.
Bahrudin said he saw his father for the last time on July 11, 1995, when Srebrenica fell to Serb forces.
“Though all the bones cannot be found, at least the location of the grave makes us a little peaceful. We’ll bring our children to my father’s grave and explain how we lost their grandparents in the genocide,” said Bahrudin Salihovic.
Bahrudin added that he was 25 years old in 1995, when the genocide took place, adding that he had witnessed many horrors.
“I walked among the people who were killed on the forest road, I slept alongside the corpses to reach the safe zone,” said Bahrudin.
Mihad Zukanovic is another relative of a genocide victim and will bury his grandfather, Ibrahim Zukanovic, at this year’s ceremony.
Mihad said he was only eight years old when he saw his grandfather last, bit he could never forget that day when his grandfather kissed him on the cheek for the last time.
“I grew up in Srebrenica with my grandfather and I was always with him. We used to go to the field together. He had a blue jacket that he never took off,” said Mihad.
Mihad together with his mother and sister took refuge with the Dutch military unit at the UN office after Serb forces took control of the city.
“We looked for my grandfather, but among thousands of people, we couldn’t find him,” said Mihad.
Mihad recalled that he saw a man hanging from behind the truck when he got up to go to the toilet one night.
“Some people who took refuge at the base hung themselves in order not to surrender to the Serbs,” he recounted.
Meanwhile, the Ibisevic family is also preparing to bury one of their two sons who were killed during the genocide, while they are still searching for the body of the other.
The family will bury their older son, Salko Ibisevic, who was 23 years old when he was killed.
Father Ahmo Ibisevic said he lost about 40 relatives in the genocide.
Despite the fact that 25 years had passed since the genocide, they still have not been able to reach the body of their other son, Samir.
Ahmo added that they also could not find all the bones of their younger son, Salko.
He said they had been trying to find the rest of his remains for nine years.
“After Srebrenica fell to Serb forces, I went with my sons on the forest road to reach the Bosnian-controlled area. When I saw Salko for the last time, he was carrying a wounded relative on his back […] Samir was walking along the forest road with two of his friends. I told them where to go and where to meet,” said Ahmo.
Ahmo said, however, that burying his son after 25 years would not put an end his pain.
“It will be difficult at first, but at least there will now be a tombstone,
“Our pain will not stop, and we will continue to live with the pain of our little son, which we have not yet found,” said Ahmo.
Mother Zineta Ibisevic said no one told the besieged Bosnians to protect their children from the Serbs.
“We Muslims used to live in the same neighborhood as the Serbs. Nobody warned us that we should protect our children from them. I saw them last time on the side of the road through the window of the bus. They were walking in two rows accompanied by Serb soldiers soldiers directing their rifles at them ,” said Zineta.
Salko Ibisevic, only 23 when he was killed, will be the youngest victim to be buried this year. Hasan Pezic, the oldest, was 70 and will also be laid to rest in this year’s ceremony.
Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide — which claimed the lives of over 8,000 people — are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. Thousands of visitors from various countries attend the funeral services and burials.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will participate in this year’s memorial program via video link.
During a two-day visit to Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo last year for a similar event, Erdogan attended a procession to commemorate the innocent thousands who fell victim to the genocide.
As of this year’s funeral, the number of burials in the cemetery will rise to 6,652.
More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed when Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.
Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.
The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a “safe area” in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by General Ratko Mladic — later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide — overran the UN zone.
The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica residents fled into the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.
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