Remembering Srebrenica

This weekend, I spoke at two commemorations of the Srebrenica massacre — one in Leeds (at the Makkah Masjid mosque) and one in Bradford (at the town hall) — marking the 19th anniversary of the cold-blooded massacre of over 8000 Muslims in the Bosnian civil war.

I visited Srebrenica three years ago. Like others in the area, the village is still marked by bullet holes, burned-out houses and ruins. The massive monumental cemetery, with some 8000 graves, is immensely moving.

The sight was a sobering reminder of how intolerance can trigger a spiral of hatred, descending into appalling violence. The chilling words of General Mladic, speaking of the Serb nation taking revenge for defeat in a 14th-century battle, illustrate the evil of ultra-nationalism.

Most worrying of all is that this happened in what was previously a well-integrated and seemingly tolerant society. Muslims, Orthodox Christians, Catholics and others lived side by side. There was a high level of mixed marriages. Sarajevo had hosted a successful Winter Olympics only a few years earlier. And yet…

Nor is this far away. It is just outside the European Union, itself founded on the imperative of ‘never again’. Countries that had fought each other for centuries in periodic warfare came together to find a better way of doing things. We can still have our rows — but across a negotiating table or a debating chamber. Our new motto is ‘unity in diversity’.

But the legacy of Bosnia reminds us that peace and tolerance, even in a well-adjusted society, remain fragile. Stable, peaceful relationships between states are good — but they are not good enough. Internal conflict driven by sectarianism, racism or misguided nationalism can poison society from within. We must stay vigilant against the first signs of such developments, even in Britain. Obviously poisonous influences like the EDL, jihadists and the BNP are already, thankfully, shunned by the overwhelming majority. But the more subtly poisonous messages from some of our newspapers, UKIP, and others, remain worrying.

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8 Comments

  1. But again, the West just sponsored a coup in Ukraine using modern nazis as shock troops, who doubtless would build concentration camps for their enemies in Ukraine. The morality of this is base in the extreme. Hypocrisy much ?

    • “The West sponsored a coup in Ukraine using modern nazis as shock troops…”
      “Modern nazis”, reality or propaganda?
      I’m sorry, John, but knowing Poutine’s job in the late USSR (KGB), I have a tendancy to bend for propaganda – unless you can provide us with clear evidence.

      • I’m sure you’ve seen it too, you can’t avoid it if you use the internet. I’m sure you’ve googled it before.
        So I guess it won’t matter what evidence I give – especially if it’s predetermined that the web is controlled by Putin the master propagandiser. I don’t think he’s really that powerful, do you, especially compared to the vast NATO and EU propaganda resources ?

      • …not that there will be a shortage of Russian ultra nationalist skinheads, all European countries have them, but if Putin wants to use the extreme right then that’s the Russian people’s responsibility and cost. If EU or NATO want to play international chess games using Ukrainian nazis to take the white king, that’s on our dollar and supposedly by our elected leaders. There is a bit of a history of using political and religious extremists against Russia, with unpleasant consequences.

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