Education Visit to Bosnia
Community Foundation is pleased to be working with Remembering Srebrenica on their 'Lessons From Srebrenica' education programme to visit Bosnia from the 5th to the 8th December. Remembering Srebrenica organises the flagship 'Lessons From Srebrenica' educational programme to Bosnia. This project seeks to inspire people to take action in their UK communities that will help to create a better, safer and stronger society. Applicants will be required to make a pledge to undertake a community focused activity upon their return & raise funds for Remembering Srebrenica. This is an opportunity for community activists/civic leaders/religious leaders/local politicians to take part in an educational trip to Bosnia.
Short video on experience of last delegation
We are seeking to identify individuals who would be able to give something back to their community and be able to implement the lessons learned within their own communities
Remembering Srebrenica in partnership with organisations such as Community Foundation aims to motivate people of all ages to strengthen their communities by challenging hatred and intolerance. We do this by remembering the worst crime in Europe since the Second World War – more than 8,000 mainly Bosnian Muslim men and boys systematically murdered, just for who they were. Srebrenica is a dark stain on humanity that happened on our doorstep in living memory within a seemingly well-integrated society.
Remembering Srebrenica's 'Lessons From Srebrenica' programme enable individuals to meet survivors, as well as witnessing programmes such as the work done by the International Commission for Missing Persons in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Individuals applying to take part must pledge to undertake a concrete social action on their return to the UK which challenges hatred and intolerance in their communities. There is strong demand for places on the programme. Remembering Srebrenica will judge applicants are judged on the strength of their pledges – their activity in the UK must demonstrably contribute towards creating a better society, whilst challenging hatred and raising awareness of the genocide. For example, applicants may hold a Srebrenica Memorial Day on or around 11 July; run community events; or work with schools to raise awareness of Srebrenica (assemblies/workshops). Applicants must be at least 18 and UK citizens.
Remembering Srebrenica in collaboration with Community Foundation require every delegate selected to take part in a visit to make a minimum donation to Remembering Srebrenica of £50 to register their commitment to the programme and carrying out their pledge. Remembering Srebrenica provides all accommodation, transport and food (excluding travel within the UK).
Additionally, they ask delegates to raise funds for Remembering Srebrenica in the 12 months after their visit to help more people learn the lessons from Srebrenica and help to create a better society.
Taking part in a ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ visit is a powerful experience, which has already inspired hundreds of British people from a diverse range of backgrounds and faiths to take action to change their communities for the better.
If you wish to join the trip, please download the application form from our website www.thecommunityfoundation.org.uk and return before the closing date Sat
31 October 2015
UK DELEGATION VISIT BOSNIA TO LEARN ABOUT THE HORRORS OF GENOCIDE
After the crimes of the Holocaust became internationally known, world leaders vowed it would never happen again, especially on European soil. Despite this promise, on 11th July 1995, the UN ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica became the site of Europe's worst massacre since World War II. The systematic genocide of 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys was carried out by the Serb army in the space of just 10 days, after the United Nations peacekeepers handed over the town and its inhabitants to the Serbian General Ratko Mladić. During the three year invasion of Bosnia 200,000 people were killed, 12,000 of these were children. Up to 50,000 women were raped, and 2.2 million were forced to flee their homes. After the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbians were seeking to take control of the region and embarked on a campaign of annihilation of all who were different from their race and creed by killing all males and raping the women. Their vision was to re-establish the kingdom of Greater Serbia for Orthodox Christians only.
Since 1995, the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal have officially recognised the murders that took place in Srebrenica as an act of genocide. In 2009, the EU officially recognised 11th July as Srebrenica Memorial Day and Serb General Mladić has been charged with war crimes and the trial is now in process at The Hague.
The Community Foundation, a grass roots charity leading on community development and community reassurance organised an education trip to Bosnia with the support of Remembering Srebrenica, which runs the Lessons from Srebrenica programme aiming to help people from the UK learn about the genocide. Nozmul Hussain, the Chief Executive of Community Foundation, who lead the delegation, said: “interest to take part in the programme was huge. We were inundated with hundreds of applications from people across the UK. It was quite a task selecting the 17 delegates, as most applicants were of a very high calibre.” He added: “in return for their place, those selected pledged to do something in the UK upon their return to help educate others on the events that took place in Bosnia in a pro-active way.”
Sharmarke Ali, an online campaigner, has pledged to run workshops in various schools and use the Srebrenica story to help young people better understand the present suffering and political situations in Syria, Nigeria and Yemen. Police Sergeant Marina Dain has pledged to develop a package on hate crime to deliver to school children. Theology student Sarah Gilbert has pledged to hold an open informative / memorial event at the University of Birmingham campus that will both educate those who attend and commemorate the victims. Elizabeth Buckley an International Relations student, has pledged to hold a series of debates with the United Nations Society at the University of Birmingham to discuss how the international community should be addressing global issues of intolerance.
On the second day, after a guided tour of Sarajevo and the embattled streets still bearing bullet holes, the first place the group visited was the gallery of Tariq Samarah, an eye witness photographer who captured the horrors of the war through his lenses. Whilst there, the group saw many of his photographs as well as two short films showing the conditions people lived in during the war. Many people had their electricity and water supply cut by the Serbs – in fact Sarajevo city had no access to either of these for 47 months whilst under siege. Doctors were even forced to treat the wounded without anaesthetic. One of the most harrowing stories from that day came from a woman who described how her sister had gone mad with grief after being forced to watch her three month old baby being roasted in an oven by Serb soldiers.
Discussing his experience, Tariq said: “pain takes away your ego and gives you perspective. At no moment did it occur to me to hate anyone. I did not hate, because it would make me weak.” This overwhelming resilience, wisdom and strength was reflected in every survivor that the group met whilst in Bosnia.
Photo taken by Tariq of graffiti on the United Nations building
Photographs of dead or missing Bosnian men and children
The delegation with Tariq Samarah at his gallery in Sarajevo
The group travelled to Srebrenica on the third day and visited the mass graves and the Potocari Memorial Centre. A presentation was given by Hasan Hasanovic, a survivor of the Srebrenica massacre who now works at the centre, bravely telling his story to hundreds of people every year.
Alongside his father and twin brother, Hasan managed to flee Srebrenica before the massacre began. They joined hundreds of men on a perilous journey that became known as ‘The Death March,’ where men desperately hoped to make a 63 mile journey (6 days on foot) through Serb territory to the nearest safe area, Tuzla. Hasan was one of a handful of men to survive. Most men, including Hasan’s father and twin brother, were killed by Serb snipers or died of fatigue before they could reach Tuzla.
Speaking with Hasan, delegate Sarah Gilbert asked him if he felt he could ever live a ‘normal’ life. Hasan simply said this: “no, when you survive genocide you wake up a survivor, you go to bed a survivor. Every second of every day I am thinking about what happened somewhere in my head.”
At the centre, the delegates were shown some footage of the massacre recorded by Serb soldiers whilst they were laughing and killing civilians. It showed young boys being lined up and told to dig their own graves. Most of them were killed immediately after, but two boys were kept alive long enough to bury the men they had just watched been shot dead. These two boys were then made to wait as the camera battery was low. When they obtained a new battery the two boys were shot dead whilst the Serb soldiers carried on recording their killings. Whilst watching this, the group flinched almost in unison at every gunshot shown on the screen. Talking about what she had witnessed, Zahra Fatima, ‘team vote’ campaigner, said: “it made it even more real, it makes you think - how could people do something like that?” When asked how she felt afterwards, Gina Melosi, a Jewellery artist from London, summed up her feelings as “empty.”
Potocari Memorial centre Mass graves of those who perished at Srebrenica
Delegate Khadija Allen at the mass graves of those Delegates joining in a prayer lead by Imam Adam Kelwick
who perished at Srebrenica in remembrance of those who lost their lives
The Mothers of Srebrenica
Whilst in Srebrenica, the group met two elderly women who were forcefully separated from their male relatives during the massacre. These women are known as The Mothers of Srebrenica. The group heard how the residents of Srebrenica put total faith in the United Nations troops, and happily handed in whatever arms they had made to defend themselves, believing that they would be protected by the UN. Many months and years after the war had ended, most women still believed that the men and boys taken away by the Serbs would show up. One mother said: “what we didn’t realise was that we were sitting in a waiting room for a butchery.” This lady lost her two sons, her husband, her brothers, her nephews and many other family members – she said more than one hundred men directly connected to her family perished that week. At the start of the war her youngest son had also been shot. She lamented: “every child is God’s gift, and every single child is the most beautiful to its own parent. Unfortunately some other people decided our children had no right to live before they even discovered what life was.”
Over 1000 children under the age of 12 were killed in Srebrenica during the war, including one two year old boy. In 2010 she buried her husband and two of her sons; only two shin bones were found from one of her sons, as was the case for thousands of other men and boys who were killed by the Serbs. This is because their dismembered body parts were dumped in different mass graves in a bid to hide their heinous atrocity. The International Commission on Missing Persons, which the group visited on the last day, are still tirelessly trying to identify missing people 20 years on, from fragments of bones unearthed from different mass graves.
Despite the loss that they have suffered, the mother’s show an incredible amount of strength and their message is one of love and tolerance. Khadija, one of the mothers said: “Serbs have done this to us. But if I was given an opportunity by anybody to kill all the Serbs in this world I couldn’t even think about it. It is very difficult to live with the pain on a daily basis, but to think about hurting another person – I couldn’t bear that. Because finding a single finger of any of my sons is worth more than the whole of this world.” She added: “And that is why we have to fight together to prevent evil happening, and we have to fight it at the very beginning, not when it spreads. If all of us did a small amount of good, this world would be a far better place. The most important thing to us is that what happened here must not be forgotten, and that it never happens to anyone ever again.”
Meeting the mothers was a deeply harrowing and moving experience for the entire delegation, Will Robey said afterwards: “I kept picturing my own Mum, and how she might feel. It is really hard listening to people who have been through so much yet they are still so embracing, brave and courageous.”
Photo of UK delegation with the mothers of Srebrenica
For the delegation to Bosnia, the educational trip has been worth every minute of the time spent there. It was an emotional experience for all to take in the horror of the genocide which could only be really understood by being there and hearing from the survivors directly. These survivors have shown great courage and provided a glimmer of hope that peace is possible, even with your worst enemy, if you are able to find forgiveness and love in your heart.
“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that people responded not with anger and hate, but with love, and I will take that away with me.” Catherine Major, CIC Director.
“Seeing the loss that people suffer here, even twenty years on, has given me perspective. When I go back to the UK I want to make sure my friends and family know about what happened here, and make sure they are aware of the horrible things that still happen. I want them to know the importance of being grateful for what they do have, because what happened here shows how quickly everything can change and how everything that’s important to you can be ripped from your arms.” Elizabeth Buckley, International Relations Student
"Only by living with each other (not next to each other) can we bring prosperity to our society. Living next to each other is not good enough." Resad Trbonja, an ex-soldier who fought and survived the 47 month Sarajevo siege during the Bosnian war.
The people of Bosnia are trying to rebuild their lives and their economy devastated by the war. Bosnia is increasingly becoming a popular tourist destination, as it has much to offer for travellers to not just learn about the genocide, but to also enjoy the hospitality of the Bosnian people. It is a great place to visit for those interested in the history of the country and sample Bosnian coffee whilst admiring the breath taking scenery and experience the cultural fusion of the East and West in one place.
Article Written by Sarah Gilbert and Nozmul Hussain, Community Foundation.
To read Asian World News article on this visit, click here.