Day 6 - Visiting Srebrenica

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This was the most moving day of our holiday in Bosnia. Srebrenica may not be on everyone's list of places to visit when the travel to Bosnia but it should be. It is one of those places that people need to know about and not forget.

I'm not going to try and recount the full story here, there are plenty of websites that do that well but I would like to explain our day and the effect it had on me.

Feelings around the genocide in Srebrenica still seem to be very close to the surface and the Serbian governement still seek to deny the full horror, however some things are clear to anyone. Almost 9,000 people, almost all Bosnian Muslim civilians died in Srebrenica in the space of a few weeks in 1995 towards the end of the Bosnian war. They weren't killed in battle but rounded up, shot and buried in mass graves.

It is also undeniable that this attrocity was carried out by the Serbian army, probably supported by civilians in the area. And also that the UN peacekeeping force failed those people.

We travelled to Srebrenica by car with Skender, from Funky Sarajevo Tours who told us the story of those days as we drove. The visitor centre appears suddenly after driving the a residential area. It is just an old factory building but an important one as it was the base for the Dutch UN peacekeepers and the place where around 25,000 people tried to seek refuge and were denied. On the right of the road as we came to it from Sarajevo was a large graveyard where victims of this attrocity are buried. Its a moving sight, just like visiting the rows up rows of graves from the world wars. Each grave identical with the details of the person engraved on it. The entrance area has a huge monument which names everyone who died and there is an open mosque for those who want to say prayers for the dead.

Across the road however is an even more moving experience. The factory is large and pretty much untouched. It still has machinery, now idle, in it but around the enormous room that you enter there are pictures and words depicting the tragedy. Some show the thousands of people waiting outside the factory, hoping the Dutch would let them in. Some show the sight of people being led away by the Serbians even under the watchful eyes of the so-called peacekeepers. Then there are even more disturbing pictures of insults scrawlled on the wall - not written by Serbs but by the Dutch soldiers themselves.

But to my mind, the most harrowing are the first-hand accounts of people who were here at the time. Some explaining how they saw their husbands or even teenage boys being led away to buses never to see them again.

Finally we watched a video that explained the events leading up to the genocide. At the end of the video is a short section where they show several men being shot in the back with voices in the background laughing and joking about it. It is truly horrendous but to have come to Bosnia and not discovered what happened here would have been unimaginable to me.

I would recommend everyone to go and visit.