Srebrenica: Men carry a coffin at a graveyard during a mass funeral in Potocari near here on Saturday. Bosnia marks the 25th anniversary of the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, with many relatives unable to attend due to the coronavirus.—Reuters
Srebrenica: Men carry a coffin at a graveyard during a mass funeral in Potocari near here on Saturday. Bosnia marks the 25th anniversary of the massacre of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, with many relatives unable to attend due to the coronavirus.—Reuters

SREBRENICA: Bosnian Muslims marked the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre on Saturday, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II, with the memorial ceremony sharply reduced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many mourners braved the tighter restrictions put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 to attend the commemorations which culminated in a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year.

On July 11, 1995, after capturing Srebrenica, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days.

Sehad Hasanovic, 27, was one of around 3,000 relatives of the victims who attended the commemorations in spite of the virus.

He has a two-year-old daughter — the same age he was when he lost his father.

“It’s difficult when you see someone calling their father and you don’t have one,” Hasanovic said in tears.

His father, Semso, “left to go into the forest and never returned. Only a few bones have been found,” said Hasanovic.

Like his brother Sefik and father Sevko, Semso was killed when Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic entered the Srebrenica enclave before systematically massacring Bosnian men and adolescents.

“The husbands of my four sisters were killed,” said Ifeta Hasanovic, 48, whose husband Hasib was one of the nine victims whose remains have been identified since July 2019.

“My brother was killed, so was his son. My mother-in-law lost another son as well as her husband.” The nine victims were buried in the cemetery of the Genocide Memorial in Potocari, a village near Srebrenica where the base of the UN protection force was located.

The episode — labelled as genocide by two international courts — came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives.

So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified from more than 80 mass graves.

Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.

Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague.

The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of the Bosnian conflict to be described as genocide by the international community.

Published in Dawn, July 12th, 2020