News & Islam News LMC and Bosnia Heritage Foundation remember Srebrenica genocide victims 24 years on The 11th of July 2019 marked 24 years since the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Dubbed the single greatest atrocity in Europe since the Second World War, more than 8000 Bosnian men and boys were massacred by Serbian forces in Srebrenica alone. This happened despite Srebrenica being a designated ‘safe area’ under UN protection. To commemorate the anniversary, the London Muslim Centre alongside the Bosnia Heritage Foundation held a special event at the Mosque’s Maryam Centre. Visitors had the opportunity to view an exhibition put together by Bosnian photographer Jasmine Agovic, formerly with the International Commission on Missing Persons. The event began with a melodious Qur’an recitation by the Senior Imam of East London Mosque, Shaykh Mohammed Mahmoud, followed by welcoming remarks by East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre chairman, Muhammad Habibur Rahman. He expressed his sorrow for the victims of the genocide and talked about the efforts by the Mosque and the Bosnia Heritage Foundation in raising awareness about the genocide for 16 years now. The audience then watched an emotional video of the funeral prayers that place in Srebrenica on Thursday 11th July 2019 for 33 newly-identified bodies this year from the genocide of 1995, who were finally laid to rest. The evening’s first guest speaker was Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, Chairman of the Arab-Jewish Forum and Chairman and founder of the Muslim-Jewish Forum. His lifetime commitment to inter-communal understanding, which has been applauded by the UK Parliament, was clearly observable during his speech: “When it comes to suffering, there is no particular group that suffers. No minority can say my suffering is more than your suffering. Suffering is something Jews and Muslims in Europe know all too well.” He noted that community cohesion is crucial to ease suffering: “We are not just friends in good times, but also when times get difficult.” He further emphasised the importance of communities working together to not allow hatred to take root between different ethnic and religious groups, which could lead to a repeat of what happened in Bosnia. Imam Mersad Krnjic, a Bosnian imam in Birmingham and active in raising awareness about the Srebrenica genocide,reminded the audience about the tragic consequences of the war crime whose repercussions are felt to this day: “This genocide was not a coincidence, it was carefully planned over time.” But he commended the bravery, the perseverance and tolerance of the Bosnian people in the face of their struggle against oppression: “We [the Bosnian people] shocked the world twice during this war. The first thing was that we resisted the Yugoslavian army, which was the fourth largest army in the world at the time, and we were just farmers. The second was when we didn’t take revenge for what happened to us. Bosnian Muslims showed the highest level of tolerance and forgiveness.” An expert in Serbian nationalism, Dr Eric Gordy, Professor of Political and Cultural Sociology at University College London, has authored several prominent books, including Guilt, Responsibility and Denial: The Past at Stake in Post-Milošević Serbia. His address elaborated on nationalism as the root cause of the conflict: “[Ethnic cleansing] is a goal that hasn’t been successfully achieved in many places at many different times.” He shared key insights into the driving factors of nationalism, ethnic cleansing and genocide, highlighting to the audience how nationalistic sentiments can lead to atrocities like the one in Bosnia. A short video documentary was then shown about Hasan Nuhanović, author of The Last Refuge – A True Story of War, Survival and Life Under Siege in Srebrenica, an account of his experiences during the war. The documentary highlighted his inner thoughts as he vividly described some of his experiences in the 1990’s, and his hopes for the future of his country. In particular, he spoke about the lack of children in many villages where the population is shrinking due to the ageing inhabitants. The keynote speaker was Ramiza Gurdić, affectionately known as the Mother of Srebrenica. She is a war survivor who lost her husband, two sons along with 38 relatives. Since then she has been a member of the Association Movement of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, where she campaigns for truth, justice and raises awareness of the tragedy. She began her address with a harrowing account of losing her husband and her children, finding their remains years after, and burying their decomposed bodies. In closing, she called on the audience to walking firmly in the path of justice: “Together I stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you against hatred and intolerance, as we all know what hatred and intolerance can lead to.” Interfaith organiser Margaret Minoletti, who visited Bosnia as part of East London Mosque-Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum delegation in 2009, shared a moving reflection of her journey to the lands of the genocide. After her reflections, she shared a moving moment with Ramiza who actually recognised her from her visit, as coincidentally she was in Bosnia the year that Ramiza was burying her husband’s remains. Harun Rashid Khan, General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, applauded the efforts of the London Muslim Centre and the Bosnian Heritage Foundation for “keeping the story alive so that people can learn from history.” Judge Belayeth Hussain, who took part in a three-day Srebrenica Peace Walk facilitated by Bosnia Heritage Foundation, from Tuzla to Srebrenica, attending the funerals and commemorations there, sent a video message sharing his experience. He said he was humbled to take part in the Peace Walk, walking alongside war survivors for three days, and very moved by the proceedings of the funeral prayers and ceremonies on 11th July in Srebrenica. Dr Abdullah Faliq, Founder Member of the Bosnia Heritage Foundation, who has led projects and delegations to Bosnia for more than 18 years, brought the evening to a close, requesting people to visit Bosnia with their families, in a move to show solidarity as well as supporting the country’s economy. He also warned about inaction in the face of aggression, which could and has led to other massacres and genocide such as in Myanmar and Xinjiang’s Uyghur Muslims. Notes to editors 1. To find out more about the event organisers visit: www.eastlondonmosque.org.uk www.bosniaheritage.com 2. Srebrenica Commemoration 2019, featuring the full speech of Imam Mersad Krnjic and the Friday sermon on Srebrenica Genocide by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia on 5th July 2019 in Saravevo, is available here.