Mehri Niknam was officially invited by Remembering Srebrenica Committee to join a small group of faith and interfaith representatives of Abrahamic faiths on an official visit to Srebrenica.
The visit was the continuation of the efforts to bring the lessons of Srebrenica to the attention of the public, particularly the young people. On 11 July 2013, Remembering Srebrenica organised the first UK-wide Srebrenica Memorial Day at Lancaster House, London, to honour the victims and survivors of genocide based on hatred of the other.
During the visit, the group met with the British Ambassador and other dignitaries at a dinner at the ambassador’s residence. They also visited the graves of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, met with the Mothers of Srebrenica committee and the laboratories where the exhumed bodies are identified by the process of DNA.
In July 1995, 8,000 non-combatant boys and men from Srebrenica were systematically murdered by the Bosnian Serb forces of General Miladic and Serbian paramilitaries. Their bodies were buried by bulldozers in mass unmarked graves. Later when the perpetrators realised that the mass burials can be detected by satellites, they decided to cover their heinous actions for the second time by digging up the victims’ bodies by bulldozers and burying them in a number of secondary mass graves. Thus the mutilated bodies of the massacre have been found in different mass graves. Over 1,000 bodies have not yet been recovered since those who were for the mass graves refuse to tell their locations to the international authorities.
The visit to the memorial centre and the artist’s studio were particularly harrowing, tormenting and disturbing for me. Every picture, every statement, every execution building and every experience of the grieving mothers transported me to the scenes of the Holocaust. I was not observing the destruction of “a people” separate from mine, I was witnessing the genocide of my beloved “peoples”.
JIF has pledged to run several projects on bringing the lessons of Srebrenica to the attention of the young people in 2014.