Thursday, July 12, 2012

Srebrenica: A story of a Muslim Genocide

The Srebrenica Massacre

11 July 1995

I was five when the Srebrenica genocide happened but I remember. Yes, don't laugh please. Kids here in this part of the world remember things like this. 
My 14 years old cousin Omar remembers his 2 years old memories of the Iraq war. 
I was too young so, I have such vague memories of it, I was a first grade kid in primary school and somehow I still remember a few things.

I still recall the Arabic songs/Nasheed my aunts used to play from an album called "The wounds of Sarajevo".
 A collection of Arabic poems in the form of songs talking about the massacres, about places called Sarajevo, Srebrenica, Bosnia and all these hard to pronounce Slavic names.

Later I found these poems and songs online after years of research and I still love to listen to them often.

I remember she had a bumper-sticker about Bosnia on her radio/cassette device where we used to play these songs

I remember a lot of the Modern Standard Arabic vocabulary I picked up and the concepts I learned about through this . I remember asking her as we were watching black and white TV reports and I was having such a hard time understanding why they are killing kids somewhere in the world called Bosnia.

It's so strange how I could clearly remember these details but it also shows what kind of childhood some of us have experienced in Egypt even though we were too far away from these conflicts since the post Camp David era.
 Still none of my peers in school and all the way up to college would relate to these stories or know of them.

"European Muslims", "Non-Arabic speaking people who believe in the same God and book I believe in", Yugoslavia", "Serb and Bosnian" and of course the "Hate/ discrimination crimes" all were things you don't get exposed to if you're a regular Egyptian who grew up in culturally Muslim households in a secular educational system.

As I grew up and while I was exploring my identity I felt a strong connection with these people though, more than just sympathy. I was so curious and wanted to know more about this part of the world and why these white Europeans who don't look like us are Muslim and why they were massacred like that.

When I was introduced to the internet finally in 2003 I did an intensive research on the issue in Arabic ( There wasn't much out there at all back then) and eventually had to do more in English. This was one of the topics that made me want to start blogging when I was 17 or so.
 I didn't think anybody else around me knew or cared and that was hard to understand. 

Later in 2008 I wrote 2 articles on the Bosnian Genocide and until today I still get visits from people searching it in Arabic.


Until today I still listen to all the beautiful poetry they wrote about the war/genocide that I memorized growing up in Arabic. 

The wounds of Sarajevo, an album cover 

I can't miss July the 11th without thinking about it and recalling all the Aljazeera documentaries and all the articles and pictures I have in the back of my mind about this horrific event.

I still feel the words on alienation, estrangement, and that Bosnian guy singing about growing up in a non-Muslim country missing the warmth of home, the mosques, the call to prayer, the family and friends, and everything he left behind after becoming a refugee knowing that he can't be back. Ever.

Before the uprising Egypt was pushing me further away more and more and at that time I started to be an advocate of such unpopular/ unknown causes that nobody here cares to learn about.

I started an online educational/awareness campaign on the online forums I used to participate in about this part of the world, the Balkan and central Asia, its history and present, the early Islamophobia in the 1990s.

Nobody I know really cared at that time, but I was happy I got some people excited about the idea online.

I couldn't understand why nobody else was wondering as I did for so long.

How come 8,000 people were killed in 4 days for being males and Muslims and how come women and girls got raped for being Muslims and females?

How come people were kept in concentration camps starving to death and getting tortured like this?

Why didn't anybody talk about it as much as they talked about other events while it was the most outrageous mass killing in Europe after WW2?

Why do you need to be a Muslim to speak about it and why don't fellow Muslims know about it at first place?

90% of all the mosques, schools and old architecture were destroyed , more than 700 hundred mosques and more than 850 public library.

Only (yesterday) around 500 newly discovered bodies where buried.


"How can these army generals do it and get away with it?" that was one naive question I had as a first year college student until I saw other army generals doing similar things in my own country.

Looking at the destroyed buildings and the coffins piling up in Syria reminded me so much of these pictures showing green coffins and veiled women crying over them. For some reason it wasn't like Palestine or Iraq's scenes at all, it was more like Bosnia.

Now Syrians have more means to talk about what's going on there. Will that change people's perception to mass killings?
Does it mean that no more massacres will continue to happen, that no more innocent people will continue to die in vain and life will go on like this.

Does it make a difference to educate ourselves about history mistakes and educate those around us in order to avoid it?

The Bosnian genocide and the way the world responded to it all taught me so many lessons about our world and the reality of things. The racial and religious dynamics in the whole thing have hundreds of lessons on how our world is operating. 

I don't know what could be done to stop the bloodshed around the corner from my house in Egypt to be thinking about solving these issues in other countries.

I just know that this specific event has certainly shaped the political and religious consciousness of so many young Muslims in the world as it did with me. More people should learn about this massacre in this context. 

The least I can do about it is talking and honoring these victims by letting more people learn about what happened to them.

For those of you who still don't know much about it, you can easily google: Srebrenica + Genocide + 1995 and you will find plenty of documentaries and articles. 

These are some of the tweets people posted today on twitter to commemorate Srebrenica Massacre, you still can follow the hashtag #Srebrenica to get updates on it:

Stay Human ‏@Stay_Human1
Imagine whats going through families who only just buried their beloveds today after 17 years ... bodies still being identified‪#Srebrenica

Zbigniew G ‏@Zbigniew_G
In many cases, body parts of one individual have been found in several different mass graves ‪#Srebrenica

Kaya Dee ‏@Kaya_Dee
To this day i remember Bosnians telling me about the pain they suffered at the hands of their neighbours ‪#Srebrenica ‪#Islamophobia@MPACUK

Taji Mustafa ‏@tajimustafa
#Srebrenica massacre: I remember how UN arms embargo
left Bosnian Muslims largely unarmed while Serbia inherited Yugoslav Army's arsenal

Radeyah Why? ‏@TryUmphNow
After the ‪#Holocaust we dealt with ‪#antisemitism After the ‪#civilrightsmovement we death with ‪#racism But we never deal with‪#Islamophobia

#Srebrenica, where nearly 9000 Muslims were murdered. They are still finding more bodies 17 years on! We will never forget!

Rape was as much a weapon as bullets & bombs. Women raped in front of their parents, children. Fathers forced to rape daughters‪ #Srebrenica

An estimated 200,000 Muslims murdered, 12,000 children & 50,000 women raped at the end of the genocide. How can we not forget?#Srebrenica


elizabethdherman said...

Hi there!

I'm working on a project on women in political conflict and uprisings, and I just got back from a month in Egypt and am supposed to be going to Bosnia shortly. I'd love to talk you about your blog and you own experiences if you have a moment - you can write me at, I'd really love to talk!!

Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

Using War as an Excuse for More War; Srebrenica Revisited

The imperialist media tries to demonize all those who defy U.S. hegemony of the planet, from Saddam Hussein to Robert Mugabe to Slobodan Milosevic. Rarely have they been so successful in imposing these falsehoods on those considered on the left as they were with Milosevic; they even managed to extend this demonization to Serbs in general. Even this last summer, the media rehashed all the old stories of Srebenica during the civil war in Bosnia. In the article below, Diana Johnstone, a meticulous journalist and careful observer of events in the Balkans, presents a different view of what happened that summer 10 years ago. -- IAC

Anonymous said...

The above piece was written in 2005 when you were approximately 10 years old?