Bosnia’s survivors gather and grieve as the soil endlessly gives up its dead

时间:2019-10-08 责任编辑:奚困螵 来源:2018正规博彩娱乐网 点击:50 次

The dust has settled after being kicked up by crowds converging last month on Srebrenica, the site of Europe’s worst massacre since the Third Reich. But the unhealed pain remains and is repeated across this country as survivors and bereaved families gather, during this sweltering summer season of commemorations, at Bosnia’s hundreds of other mass graves.

And the search continues for thousands still buried in Bosnia’s soil more than 20 years on – 1,000 from Srebrenica and an estimated 7,000 others, whose remains horribly appear, gradually, every so often. So solemnities are also held in scores of other places with names barely known beyond the Balkans: two days after Srebrenica, at Vlasenica, where hundreds were killed and all Muslims “ethnically cleansed”; later this month on Mount Vlašic, where 250 were killed while being deported; last May in Višegrad, where Bošniak Muslims were murdered by the truckload on a beautiful bridge and burned alive in locked houses; last month at Biljani Gornji, 200 more were found in two mass graves … the list is endless.

The president of the camp prisoners association for the Sanski Most area, Nihad Kljucanin, told a crowd gathered on the mountainside beside another mass grave at Hrastova Glavica last Wednesday: “If we find them all, which we must one day, the map of our land is covered with graves.”

A convoy of cars had climbed the dusty mountain track to this lonely grave, where 124 bodies had been found in 2010 at the bottom of a crevice between the rocks. None was intended to live to tell the tale, but one did: Ibrahim Ferhatic, who escaped. The 125 prisoners – inmates of the infamous Omarska and Keraterm concentration camps – were forced to board buses off which they were taken in bound groups of three and shot individually, their bodies slotted into the narrow ravine.

Commemorations in the area around Prijedor, where the camps were located, continued that Wednesday night with an occupation of the site of one of them, Trnopolje, at which tens of thousands of civilians were concentrated – many beaten and raped – prior to enforced deportation. It was here the famous picture was taken of prisoner Fikret Alic behind the camp’s barbed-wire fencing.

Survivors returned to hear discussions, and among the organisers were – for the first time – a handful of young Serbs trying to break the silence of their parents’ generation’s complicity in the slaughter. One of them, Goran Zoric, said: “What we are doing is only small, but we hope it is a crack in the wall.”

Speaking on land where his family was interned, Refik Hodžic of the International Centre for Transitional Justice accused politicians from all parties of festering ethnic hatreds in order to retain lucrative office while Bosnia privatises and sells off resources, igniting protests last year and continuing into last week in Sarajevo.

“There’s a connection between economic robbery and the trauma of the past,” he said. “Poisonous cynics are making money by undermining our attempts to bring peace. This is hatred as a smokescreen for robbery.”

On Thursday morning, a convoy of hundreds of cars wound its way back to the site of the horrific Omarska camp, now restored to its role as an iron ore mine after being bought by the ArcelorMittal steel behemoth. On past occasions, survivors were allowed to visit rooms in which they were crammed and their friends taken out for torture and killing – now equipped with desks and computers – but were barred this year. Doors to rooms in which women were serially raped were taped shut so that flowers usually left inside were attached instead to doorknobs.

But the customary gathering was permitted on the tarmac where men were once beaten and shot to death, and around the “White House”, used for mass killing, white balloons were released, each bearing a victim’s name. Calls were made – as they have been for 10 years – for the Mittal company to ensure a monument to the dead in face of opposition from local Bosnian Serb authorities, and women held a black banner on which was written: “Silence is Complicity” – referring to those who remain missing in the ground.

Back at Trnopolje on Wednesday night was Tesma Elezovic, with her husband and son from Australia, where they went as refugees. Elezovic came here in 1992 from Omarska, where she had been among those women kept for serial violation. But this is not her deepest pain, which is that her other son Elvin, who disappeared from the police station at which he worked, has never been found. “He was killed out there somewhere, but I don’t know where,” she says. “Or how. What did he last see? Did he die quickly or in pain? Without knowing these things, I myself become ‘missing’.”

Elezovic is one of thousands in Bosnia or scattered worldwide, who – 23 years after the hurricane of violence began – live this cruel limbo.

Until August 2013, some 1,000 people were still missing in the Prijedor area, but every so often the ground gives up its grisly secrets and villagers in a place called Tomašica, near Omarska, noticed a strange taste in their water and odours in the area.

The Sarajevo-based International Commission for Missing Persons and local affiliates was called in: 596 bodies had been buried in the ground near their homes. The process pioneered in Bosnia duly began again, seeking to match remains with DNA from relatives, and last year the reburials began, sometimes of a few bones which a family was obliged to regard as a corpse, on other occasions more complete skeletons.

One volunteer who returned to her family home to administer the re-interments was Victoria-Amina Dautovic, now 22, who had been in utero at Trnopolje camp. She became the first baby born to a Bosnian refugee family in the UK and, growing up in Luton, is training in forensic science, resolved to help find her friends’ parents and parents’ friends.

So after Thursday’s commemoration at Omarska, Dautovic visited Tomašica to contemplate an apparently innocuous lake from which reeds grow. She went also to the building in Sanski Most where she worked in an office off the large space where skeletons from the area are meticulously assembled. “The names of families I know, friends of my mum and dad, were written on the papers,” she recalls, “and families were coming into the next-door office crying, but I did my job – and I want to continue this work, which for me is the most important thing of all: to find and identify these people, so that the living can at least be given back their dead.”

“All these people came to mass graves in trucks and were buried with bulldozers,” says Edin Ramulic of an organisation called Izvor, which campaigns with relatives of the missing.

“They drove past people’s houses along quiet roads. For every one missing person, at least three people know exactly where they are buried – the driver, the digger, and the policeman, plus whoever saw them pass – but all remain silent. While that silence persists, you cannot call this peace.”