Thousands remember Srebrenica victims

NEZUK: Several thousand people today began an annual 100-kilometre march to commemorate the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, three days ahead of the 20th anniversary of the killings.

Participants in the so-called “peace march” are tracing the path taken by Bosnian Muslim men and boys fleeing Bosnian Serb forces who were advancing towards the eastern town.

Some 10,000 to 15,000 Muslim males tried to escape on foot through the forests to Muslim-controlled territory. The flight began hours before the arrival of the Bosnian Serbs at the then UN-protected area on July 11, 1995.

At the head of the column there were some 3,000 to 4,000 armed men while the rest were unarmed civilians.

Almost 8,000 were captured and systematically killed in the days after the fall of Srebrenica. The lucky ones reached Muslim-held territory five days after they left, although some took over a month to reach safety.

The three-day march, that kicked off today along the 105-kilometre path, is heading in the opposite direction, from Nezuk, near the eastern town of Tuzla, to Srebrenica.

The marchers are due to arrive at a Srebrenica memorial centre in Potocari on Saturday, for a commemoration of the massacre’s 20th anniversary.

Today, some marching at the front of the column were carrying wartime-era Bosnia flags. Many marchers were dressed in white T-shirts that read “I survived”.

“I take part in this march every year in order that what we have survived is not forgotten,” one participant, Nedzad Mujic, 46, told AFP.

“The whole world should not forget it, a genocide was committed here,” he said, recalling the atrocity in which he lost his father, a brother and several other male members of his family.

Mujic recalled the last day he saw them, July 10.

“This July 10 for me was the separation from my family... It was a goodbye and I never saw them again.”

The remains of his loved ones were found, identified and buried at a Srebrenica memorial in 2006.

The massacre victims were buried in mass graves and later reburied at dozens of sites in a bid to cover up the crime.

So far the remains of more than 6,000 Srebrenica victims have been found in a number of mass graves, painstakingly identified and reburied.

Although the massacre occurred two decades ago, Bosnian Serb and Serbian leaders have persistently refused to describe it as genocide as ruled by international justice.