Visit to Srebrenica and lessons from history

Written by the participants of the TIPSY field study trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ever question mark on humanity: Srebrenica Genocide Memorial

At the beginning of 1993 Serbs were trying to empty the Non-Serbs from Eastern Bosnia. They succeeded except three small territory around Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. UN Security council adopted Resolution 819 and declared those areas as UN-protected ‘safe area’. However, Bosnian Serb force did not agree with the UN resolution and on 11 July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army overran Srebrenica. They took hundreds of Dutch Peacekeepers hostage and forced the civilians, mostly consist of Muslims, to flee. Even worse, the Serb forces killed almost 8000 people mostly men and boys of Bosnian Muslim ethnicity. The largest massacre in Europe after the Second World War can still be felt while visiting the place in person. Lots of pictures and videos keep bringing back the sad memories and keep asking the questions towards humanity. At least I didn’t have a proper answer of these questions during our recent visit. I am deeply saddened with the outcome of 1995’s incident.

Judge Riad of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia described what happened as “scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history” (Cutts & Boutroue, 2000). Indeed..

Lessons from history

While seeing the many graveyards and the signs of war that remind us of the atrocities of the 1990s during the Yugoslav wars, certain questions inevitably came to mind: how was this possible, how are humans capable of such violence in general and most importantly, what leads them to such action or what justifies it in their minds?

 Image by OSCE

At a time when divisions among political, ethnic, religious, cultural and social lines are growing, we should look at the Yugoslav wars and the events that took place during the time as warnings of where these divisions and increasing discord can ultimately lead to and how difficult it is to heal. The human capability to commit evil should not be underestimated or thought of as something completely distant. Whether it is the Srebrenica massacre that happened as recently as 1995 or the countless other massacres that have taken place within the last 100 years and throughout human history, these events seem to be commonly thought of as something remote, or worse yet, not thought about at all. Visiting Srebrenica brought a sense of immediacy to the events that took place in 1995. Perhaps most importantly, it gave valuable perspective into today’s political conditions, which do not seem to be headed towards a positive direction, as a mix of authoritarian, ethno-nationalist and populist politics, that both exploits and intensifies resentments and divisions, is on the rise throughout much of the world.


Cutts, M., & Boutroue, J. (2000). The state of the world’s refugees, 2000 (pp. 218-229). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

“In Bosnia, Entrenched Ethnic Divisions Are a Warning to the World” (New York Times – 19.11.2018)

“ Why Bannon Is Meddling With Bosnia” (NYR – 05.09.2018)

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