Bosnia and Herzegovina: The war in people's minds | Amir Kulaglic

04 Oct 2013

 Kulaglic shows his escape route from Srebrenica, which involved walking through the woods for seven days and nights. (Photo: Sigrid Lupieri/UNDP)

I was born in Srebrenica, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and have lived there all my life. There were always tensions between Serbs and the Bosnian Muslim minority, but I couldn't quite believe there would ever be a war. I was mistaken.

In 1992, [when the conflict started] many members of the Bosnian community fled into the woods. But I had a frail, elderly grandfather, an aging father, and my mother and step-father refused to leave their homes — so I stayed with my family. In May, they shot my father. He was a fragile man with a walking stick and not a threat to anyone.

As the conflict intensified, tens of thousands of displaced people from around Srebrenica came to the city seeking shelter. In 1993, the UN Security Council declared the city a weapon-free haven.

Despite this, after the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, men and boys fled from the city, which was surrounded by the military. Through a systematic effort by Serb forces in Bosnia, more than 8,000 boys and men between the ages of 14 and 75 were murdered. I managed to escape into the woods and reach a safe area in Tuzla, after walking for seven days and seven nights. My father, my step-father, two uncles, two cousins, my brother-in-law, my father-in-law and many friends were killed.

Srebrenica had 37,000 inhabitants, but today there are only 5,000 people left. The economy is ruined, many victims have never been found, and the perpetrators not only walk free, but have active roles in the city government. There is still a war in people's minds.

After the conflict, we thought that those responsible would be prosecuted. We hoped for reparations. We even thought we might get an apology. We thought the victims who disappeared would come back. But when we began to uncover thousands of bodies buried in mass graves, we knew no one would return.

As an independent activist, I speak out for the victims of Srebrenica. We need more DNA laboratories to expedite the exhumation and identification of those who were killed. We need to prosecute those who are responsible and make sure the world does not forget Srebrenica.

Maybe futures generations will someday see justice and reparations. But if justice arrives too late, can it be called justice at all?

Talk to us: Can delayed justice, even many years after a conflict, still be effective?

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