PAGE ::: 1

INFO   :::  Projects > Archives > Capacitating Future Decision Makers: A Follow-up Program > Text




The fourth in the series of the seminars planned under the project
"Capacitating Future Decision Makers: A Follow-up Program"

Srebrenica, May 2-4, 2008


"When I told my folks I was going to Srebrenica, they asked me, 'Why of all places? Do you know at all where you are going to?' I said I knew and now I am telling you that I have no regrets whatsoever."


The last in the series of the seminars planned under the project was organized in early May in Srebrenica. During their 3-day stay in this small Bosnian town - the scene of the first genocide in Europe after the WWII - young people from Vojvodina visited the Potocari Memorial Center, and talked to and socialized with their peers from the local Youth Center, women from the "Mothers of Srebrenica" organization and the town's mayor. Young Vojvodinians also had the opportunity to learn about the activities pursued in the "House of Trust" where they were accommodated throughout their stay in Srebrenica. Saturday afternoon they went on an excursion and in the evening enjoyed the "dancing party" with their peers from Srebrenica.

As they discussed the "facing the past" issue young people from Vojvodina and Srebrenica promptly agreed that the authorities of both state paid inadequate attention to the problem. According to them, a strategy of suppression and "hushing up" was in action on both sides. "What we, young ones, want is an open discussion about all dark sides of the recent past, no matter how difficult and painful that might be," some said. Otherwise, "normal life - moral, political and economic - would be impossible. Or, as they put it, without confronting the past there is no future but only eternal repeats of violence, injustice and crimes. "There is a tendency of boiling down the problem to the cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, and that's wrong. Justice meted by courts of law is not exactly justice, for all those involved in crimes would not be punished either in The Hague or by domestic courts," said a young women participating in the seminar. A young man from Srebrenica said, "Unlike you people from Vojvodina, we live in the town burdened by an enormous crime. But I wish not to live in a museum-town, I wish not to reside in a museum, but in a town where young people live the same as their peers in all other towns."

The following stands might summarize the participants' answers to the question about the significance of facing the past: "Facing the past makes us more sensitive of (some future) evil and more efficient to confront it" and "Facing is important for the sake of the truth. We need the truth for the sake of justice, and justice for the sake of peace in this region." Or, as a participant put it, "Confronting the dark past and the crimes committed in 1990s wars can so dramatically affect young people to change their personalities. I've participated in several seminars, and that experience left deep marks on my soul."

Tears in the eyes of young women sufficiently enough testified of how delicate and moving was their conversation with women from "Mothers of Srebrenica" organization. "I keep waiting but my men never show up. They don't show up among the living or among the dead. They are nowhere but denial of the crime is everywhere." "Denial of the crime offends us. Srebrenica is a difficult story. We are living here in painful expectation. We are living in the midst of the sea of white tombstones." "What hurts me the most is seeing people involved in crime strolling freely in the streets. There are many empty houses over here because the people who used to live in them were all killed." "All those who have committed crimes, regardless of the side they came from, should be punished. But neither the world nor domestic public opinion want Karadzic and Mladic arrested and brought to justice." Those are just some excerpts from what the Srebrenica mothers said. The Helsinki Committee's longstanding associate, Mr. Rade Vukosav, moderated the discussion with much delicacy.

Mayor Adburahman Malkic addressed young Vojvodinians on the last day of their stay in Srebrenica. He underlined that relations among local population were still burdened with distrust affecting even such trivial matters as seeing a doctor. According to him, facing the past should be intensified. However, he also raised the question of "how" bearing in mind that "the truth is being interpreted from ethnic angles and we live in closed circles that never touch on each other." "Legal prohibition of denial of the crime of genocide and fewer stumbling blocks to the return of refugees would be major steps in the right direction," said Mr. Malkic, adding that refugees' return was influenced by many factors, including that of education. "Many parents do not want their children being lectured about Bosniaks intent to expel Serbs," said the Mayor. As he put it, there are teachers in Srebrenica, who take that coexistence is impossible. Reconstruction of houses is snail-paced (only one-third of destroyed houses have been reconstructed so far). Citizens' real estate is being restituted but often cannot be used because it is located in minefields. Last year, said Malkic, the town organized a joint commemoration to all victims - a practice that should be continued.

The visit to Srebrenica left not a single participant indifferent. At the evaluation meeting, young Vojvodinians underlined good organizational arrangements, educational value of such tours and face-to-face talks that are, in their view, by far more instructive than conventional lectures. They particularly appreciated the opportunity to talk to young people from Srebrenica and women of the "Mothers of Srebrenica" organization. "I've never seen before such beautiful landscape, talked to such kind people and listened to such moving stories. Other young people from Serbia should also see and hear what we did," said a girl from Novi Sad.

Young people from Zrenjanin, Novi Sad, Beocin, Ruma, Stara Pazova and Indjija traveled to Srebrenica and attended the seminar.

Actually over 20 young people applied for the trip. However, some had to cancel their participation at the eleventh hour as they could not fit their schedule to the hour of departure.

The Dnevni Avaz daily (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Radio Deutche Welle reported on the visit and seminar.

The project is realized with the assistance of the Balkan Trust for Democracy.



PAGE ::: 1







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment