Scots delegation hears of women's experiences in Srebrenica as genocide anniversary approaches

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale and MSP Gail Ross were among the delegation to Bosnia to mark the anniversary of the genocide

LAST WEEK, Remembering Srebrenica Scotland took a delegation to Bosnia to visit the site of the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

The delegation, including Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, SNP MSP Gail Ross, journalists, educators, and representatives from the police and the legal profession, visited Srebrenica as part of a three-day tour of the country.

The Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood, chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, who led the delegation, explained why it organised the trip: “The lessons from Srebrenica programme is a vital part of what we do.

“We take influential Scottish delegates to see first-hand the importance of learning from what happened in Srebrenica, standing up to hatred, challenging prejudice and valuing what we have in common rather than what divides us.

“We take influential Scottish delegates to see first-hand the importance of learning from what happened in Srebrenica, standing up to hatred, challenging prejudice and valuing what we have in common rather than what divides us.” The  Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood

“They come back keen to help our mission of building a movement that creates stronger, more cohesive communities in Scotland.”

The focus of the trip was to recall the experience of the women who were involved in the genocide that took place in July 1995.

During the visit to Bosnia, the group heard from people such as the Association of Women Victims of War, Mother of Srebrenica and photographer Tarik Samarah.

Dugdale said: “My visit to Srebrenica was utterly harrowing. I witnessed first-hand the remnants of the genocide from mass graves to bullet holes in almost every post-war building and indeed the degree to which hatred and intolerance continue to damage European countries to this day.

“The men [UN Dutch forces] turned away were effectively being turned into the hands of the Serbian army and each and every one of them was then slaughtered.” Kezia Dugdale

“The war and genocide is over, but Bosnia is left with a very fragile peace. In fact, despite there being literally thousands of graves from six days of slaughter in 1995, the Serbian Government still denies those events ever happened.

“The most disturbing location of my visit was an old refugee centre where the UN Dutch forces took in 5,000 women and children before turning everybody else away. The men they turned away were effectively being turned into the hands of the Serbian army and each and every one of them was then slaughtered.”

Ross said: “This has been a harrowing, exhausting but invaluable visit. I’ve met with women who have shared with me their horrific experiences, which were thrust upon them simply because of their religious beliefs.

“They have told me how their families have been destroyed, their bodies abused and tortured, their homes taken from them; all just 22 years ago.

“It is estimated that 23,000 women and children were forcibly deported from their refuge in Srebrenica, that’s well over a quarter of the population of my own constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.” Gail Ross

“It is estimated that 23,000 women and children were forcibly deported from their refuge in Srebrenica, that’s well over a quarter of the population of my own constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross.

Ross added: “What happened in Srebrenica is an example of the devastating impact that poor communication and cooperation with our neighbours can have.

“It is estimated that over 8,000 muslim men and boys were killed in just five days. If killings on this scale were to happen here in Scotland it would be incompressible to most of us. Some of our communities are fragile, some are hostile to others, and some are isolated.”

Next month will mark the 22nd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide that killed more than 8,000 people during the Bosnian war.

The former UN secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan called the genocide the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

July 11 will mark the anniversary of the genocide where Bosnian muslim men and boys were murdered in Srebrenica because of their Islamic faith.

The genocide was a culmination of a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing – carried out by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the leadership of General Ratko Mladic – in which men were tortured and killed. Between 20,000 and 50,000 women were raped.

The former UN secretary-general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, called the genocide the worst crime on European soil since the Second World War.

Remembering Srebrenica Scotland will be having a national commendation on 14 July at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, where the founder and head of the Association of Women Victims of War, Bakira Hasecic, will give testimony of the genocide that took place in Srebrenica.

Picture courtesy of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland  

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