By Senator Rehman Malik
July marks the month of the Srebrenica massacre, which occurred in 1995, in which more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica, a town in eastern Bosnia. This was the killing of innocent Muslims who just wanted the right to live in their own home towns which belong to them.
The Srebrenica massacre resembles the very current massacre being carried out in Kashmir where once again Muslims are being denied their right to live peacefully and honourably. Kashmiris are facing the same what Bosnia Muslims were facing in 1995. Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto (SMBB) visited Bosnia on 2nd Feb 1994 to show her solidarity to the victims while the heavy shelling continued to pour during her presence there with the victims’ families.
The Bosnian Serbs simply wanted the creation of a border separating the Serb people from Bosnia’s other ethnic communities as they were being killed and they wanted to have peaceful livings and practice their Muslim faith. Where as the abolition of the border along the River Drina separating Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs’ Republika Srpska, which was opposed by the Bosnian Muslims as they possessed majority of the population in the valley. The majority had the right to demand it.
In addition to the killings, more than 20,000 civilians were expelled from the area, in a process known as ethnic cleansing. that took refuge in Srebrenica increasing the town’s population. The same sort of ethnic cleansing is going on in Indian-held Kashmir where Kashmiris are being expelled and the extremist RSS community is being habituated.
The areas where Bosnia Muslims lived were surrounded and besieged by Serb forces, who made the lives of the Muslims miserable. The brutalities of Serbs attracted various Muslim Jihadis from all over the world to come to the rescue of Bosnian Muslims.
During the Bosnian War, in 1992, Bosniak villages around Srebrenica were under constant attacks by Serb forces with heavy firing. They had destroyed 296 villages around Srebrenica three years before the genocide and in the first three months of war, around 70,000 Bosniak Muslims were forcibly uprooted from their houses and forced to the venue of the massacre. This massacre was the worst episode of mass murder within Europe since World War II after which Srebrenica came to international prominence.
In 2001, the Srebrenica massacre was determined by the judgement of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to have been a crime of genocide. This finding was upheld in 2007 by the International Court of Justice. The decision of the ICTY was followed by an admission and an apology for the massacre by the Republika Srpska government.
Under the 1995 Dayton Agreement which ended the Bosnian War, Srebrenica was included in the territory assigned to Bosnian Serb control as the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although guaranteed under the provisions of the Dayton Agreement, the return of survivors was repeatedly obstructed.
The Agreement was witnessed by representatives of the Contact Group nations — the United States, Britain, France, Germany, and Russia — and the European Union Special Negotiator.
The Dayton Peace Agreement and its central clauses are summarized below:
• Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia agree to fully respect the sovereign equality of one another and to settle disputes by peaceful means.
• The cease-fire that began with the agreement of October 5, 1995, was agreed to be continued.
• The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic must begin negotiations within 7 days, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) auspices, with the objective of agreeing on confidence-building measures within 45 days. These could include, for example, restrictions on military deployments and exercises, notification of military activities and exchange of data.
• An Inter-Entity Boundary Line between the Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic was agreed.
• Free and fair, internationally supervised elections were agreed to be conducted within six to nine months for the Presidency and House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the House of Representatives of the Federation and the National Assembly and presidency of the Bosnian Serb Republic in which refugees and persons displaced by the conflict will have the right to vote.
In the eyes of the people who visit Bosnia, everything might seem right in Bosnia but if they dig deeper, there’s more to this story than the physical reminders of bullet-riddled apartment blocks.
Many Bosnians haven’t recovered from this tragedy yet and many who went into exile haven’t returned and perhaps never will. It is almost impossible to pretend as if nothing happened and to ignore how former neighbours and friends tried to kill each other. Ethnic tensions still exist in the region and are stronger than ever. Unemployment in Bosnia is among Europe’s highest level of unemployment. Each ethnic group is represented by their own leader, which means Bosnia has three presidents: a Bosniak, a Serb and a Croat, who hardly agree on anything and are never on the same page. Although Bosnia is recovering, it still has a long way to go.
Russia played a vital role in putting an end to the Bosnian war through the Dayton Agreement. In 2015, Russia vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have described the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as a genocide and was drafted to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre on July 11. Given that the slaughter of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serbs have already been widely condemned as a genocide, both by international panels and countries around the world, the diplomatic movement may seem insignificant.
I show solidarity to the victims’ families of Srebrenica who suffered during the Bosnian war. I pay salute to the courage demonstrated by Muslims of Bosnia to get their rights. I also would like to salute the Kashmiri innocent Muslims who are fighting for their self-determination which is continuously being denied and for which they are consistently facing mass killings.
It is highly appreciable that His Excellency Ambassador Sakib Foric always holds an event every year in the memory of the victims of this genocide. May God bless their souls in peace.
(The writer is Chairman of think tank “global eye” & former Interior Minister of Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org@GlobalEye_GSA)