The annual commemoration was held by Zoom on 12 July 2021 by the East London Mosque & London Muslim Centre with the Bosnia Heritage Foundation.

The Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust, Muhammad Habibur Rahman, welcomed the audience, who had joined together to remember the victims of Srebrenica genocide 26 years on, the single greatest atrocity in Europe since the Second World War:

“This commemoration is an opportunity for reflection, to ask ourselves what lessons we have learned from such a terrible crime that occurred in the heart of Europe.”

Only the day before, 19 newly identified victims of the Srebrenica genocide were buried in Poticari, Srebrenica. Indeed, some in this audience had watched the solemn funerals, listening to the moving recitation from the Qur’an and the prayers offered at the cemetery, in solidarity with the family members who had travelled to Srebrenica to bid a final farewell to their beloved.

The Chairman then introduced several distinguished speakers. Below we present some of the highlights.

The commemoration began with a pre-recorded Qur’an recitation by Shaykh Ferruh Muştuer, a Bosnian Imam at the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. A special video was screened to show the names and footage of the funerals of 19 newly identified victims of the genocide, buried on 11 July 2021. The names of the 19 victims were read out by two young Bosnian pupils from Birmingham, Hanah and Faris Ceric.

A photo exhibition of the mortal remains of genocide victims from mass graves was presented by Jasmin Agovic, a photographer based in Sarajevo, who has worked for the International Commission on Missing Persons for 10 years.

Queen Mary University of London student, Ibrahim Dayyan, read a short poem on the ‘Silence’ of the international community at the time on the genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. Finally, Mustafa Isakovic, singer, performer and an imam at the Nova Breka Mosque in Sarajevo, played out the evening, dedicating a special nasheed (song), titled “Ya Ilahi Zati Paki” (Oh My Dear Lord).

The commemoration event was supported by the Muslim Council of Britain and The Bosnia Trust

Dr Dževada Šuško
Chief-of-Office, Foreign Affairs & Diaspora Department, Islamic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Assistant Professor in International Relations, University of Sarajevo, and officially representing the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina at this event.

It is our human obligation to preserve the memory of genocide as long as we exist. This is a task of national, cultural and religious importance. It is also our obligation not to suffer in silence, but to draw a lesson and to do everything to prevent further atrocities.

Firstly, nationalist ideologies and genocides are not happening in a vacuum or in isolation from the case of New Zealand. We know that the terrorist was inspired by Serb nationalism. Secondly, we shall not forget, but we shall not stick to the past either; but rather, draw a lesson, look forward and move on. Thirdly, we shall express solidarity with other people who are currently, precisely at this moment, exposed to genocide, and they are fighting for survival such as the Uyghur and Rohingya people; and we shall act!

Dr Admir Mulaosmanović
Bosnian Army (4th Knights Brigade) soldier, severely wounded in 1992 war; Counsellor and Associate Professor, Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministries.

From the very beginning of the 19th century, we have witnessed the Serb political elite as being very eager to purify that territory, to expel and to get rid of Muslims and Islam.

…for the last two hundred years, we can say that the greater Serb ideology is not accepting the otherness. They are not ready to give credit for the order to recognise their faith and culture as equal to Serb faith and culture, and they are not accepting the responsibility for committed crimes, atrocities and genocide.

Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) became threat to national goals [of the Serbs] and for last 200 years they suffered waves of deadly attacks. For that Serb radical ideology Bosniaks represented otherness and obstacle in achieving national unity and purity.

Catherine West MP
Shadow Foreign Minister (Europe & Americas); MP for Hornsey & Wood Green.

By listening to the story of Mirsad Solakovic, who experienced the most terrible inhumane and degrading treatment at the age of 13, speaking about his pain, it gives me more hope to continue; whether it is working with colleagues like yourselves on the call tonight to stand up for the Uyghur minority facing inhuman treatment in factories creating cotton for the world’s fashion industry; whether it is standing against the brutalising treatment of the Rohingya in Burma; or whether it is in other terrible conflicts in Africa – together we can stand up against this inhumane treatment, and together we can call for governments to do more.

Together, if we can commit ourselves to a future and recommit ourselves financially as wealthy economies to the cost of that peace-making, I think we will end up in a more secure world overall, and a world where we can genuinely say that human rights matter.

Ajša Hafizović-Hadžimešić
Journalist, teacher and translator of Arabic and Russian languages; editor of Preporod newspaper (since 1994).

The best tribute to all the victims is to renew our commitment to the voices of the victims, to continue to ask for truth and justice in their names, the mothers of Srebrenica, and give voice to their slain sons for 26 years. The mothers never gave up the fight for truth and justice.

I met the prosecutors who had fought for justice in their name… all these prosecutors are heroes of our time, they have cared for the lives of those lost, and also have fought hard for justice within the parameters of international law and universal human values. These people realise that the need for social for justice is an inherent part of human nature.

We have to see those prosecutors and investigators as outstanding examples of people who show their faith by their deeds, by the results of their work. We need to educate and inspire our youth by sharing the good work of these brave and principled people, and today more than ever it is time for governments around the world and people to renew their commitment to seek and secure international justice and accountability.

Hafiz Dr Kenan Musić
Assistant Professor and Head of Hadith Department, Sarajevo University; former Chief Imam of Sarajevo.

It is a significant step in facing the past: a couple of weeks ago in Montenegro, we had their Parliament adopting a declaration about genocide in Srebrenica. It is a significant step when we have European capitals remembering and commemorating Srebrenica in order to educate generations to come. We are talking from the core values that every human life values irrespective of faith; it needs to be protected, it needs to be saved, and it needs to be taken care of.

It is very important and very significant to give our contribution as human beings, as believers. We need to be responsible citizens of the world to protect human life, not allow atrocities to be committed against anybody, and especially to have in mind that if atrocities are tolerated, then someday they can become what is known as a genocide, an intention to kill one nation, one religious community, one ethnic community.

I hope all of us will remain on that path of justice, path of peace, path of preserving every human life, because we Muslims and non-Muslims all believe that life is the gift from almighty God, and we all need to work to preserve this life and to prevent any kind of crime against life.

Rushanara Ali MP
Former Shadow Minister for International Development and Further Education, respectively. Chair of APPGs on the Rohingya, and Burma.

For those of us who were growing up at that time, to see genocide being committed after everything we learned about the Holocaust and the mantra of never again, was horrific. And so today, our thoughts are with all those who lost loved ones in Bosnia and all those who continue to be deeply affected. All of us are here to extend our sense of solidarity on our friendship with the Bosnian people, as we continue to see that society try to recover and rebuild.

Those who carried out those orders, who committed those atrocities, if they’re not held to account in the international courts, then we continue to send, as an international community, a dangerous message, that genocide and ethnic cleansing are acceptable policy tools by governments.

Sarah Leah Whitson
Executive Director, DAWN; formerly with Human Rights Watch’s MENA Division (2004–2020).

Our task today is to seek justice for the voiceless and the helpless. We must as stewards act on their behalf in seeking justice to empower the powerless.

We still raise our children with the memory not just of the wrong done to our people, but also the wrong that continues with each year that the [Serbs] deny it ever happened. We and our children continue to live it with a deep ingrained sense of injustice and an almost unexplainable collective drive to resist the erasure. So we must struggle, and insist that the Serbian government comes to terms with this crime, so that healing and reconciliation can occur that will benefit not only the Bosnian victims, but the Serbian perpetrators coming to terms with the past.

Zara Mohammed
Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain; Training & Development Consultant.

I myself have actually had the opportunity to visit Srebrenica and Sarajevo and some of the sites that we've been talking about this evening. I just couldn't believe as a young person just how recent these events were and just how deeply entrenched they had been into the lives and the stories of everybody who had experienced it. I remember leaving thinking what is our responsibility to what has happened here which is only a couple of hours away from us in the UK.

The question we’ve got to ask ourselves is, how do we ensure that history is not just left in the chapters of the books or even in the graves of those who’ve passed away?

We are at such a pivotal time, and being the youngest leader of the organisation [MCB], for me what’s really important is the future, and that’s what’s really at stake. It’s so fundamental that we’re all part of that change and that we continue to share these stories with young people, but also keep them hopeful and inspired that actually, there are many of us here to create the right change.

We appreciate these contributions to our commemoration. We end with some reflections from the convenor of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial 2021, Dr Abdullah Faliq, who is also a Member of the East London Mosque Trust, and Co-Founder of the Bosnia Heritage Foundation:

Sunday 11th July 2021 was an unsettling day for me. On the one hand, I wanted to rejoice in excitement and fervour of England playing Italy in the EURO Final, we waited 55 years for this! But my excitement was tinged with sadness as I watched, the same day, live coverage of the funeral of the 19 newly-identified victims of the Srebrenica genocide. In the past 20 years or so, I attended several of these mass funerals where I witnessed hundreds of victims buried and in the presence of thousands of people who had come from far and wide. The first funeral that I attended, I was taken aback seeing nearly 800 coffins placed on the ground for burial. The scenes and the atmosphere at the funeral and commemoration were nothing I had witnessed before. It reminded me of the television news coverage in the 1990s of Bosnians fleeing the butchery of the Serbs into the mountains and hills. These memories and scenes will forever stay with me.

We at the East London Mosque and the Bosnia Heritage Foundation have been organising Srebrenica memorial events for many years, so as not to forget what had transpired in Srebrenica and other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in less than a week in Srebrenica by Serb forces, and this happened despite Srebrenica being declared a UN protected area. Such was the scale of the massacre that it rendered the town and its surrounding areas virtually without its male population. Today, there are families still looking for their loved ones; the pain is made worse because there are Serbs living among the Bosnians now who know the exact location of the dead but will not disclose the details.

Let us continue to raise awareness about Srebrenica. Let us not forget the tragedy that unfolded and which continues to affect families today.

 What you can do

  1. If you have ideas or want to get involved in raising awareness about Srebrenica, get in touch with the East London Mosque
  2. Visit Bosnia – the Bosnia Heritage Foundation organises holidays, historical and educational tours, camping, and so on.
  3. The Bosnia Trust – Cow Project. Help the needy and poor move away from poverty so they can help others.
  4. Organise events all year around to raise awareness.
  5. Visit Srebrenica Memorial Centre website for info and resources