Srebrenica- The Protected Enclave
Srebrenica, a small town in Eastern Bosnia with Muslim majority population, was targeted at the very beginning of the war. On the 18th of April 1992, Srebrenica was briefly taken by the Bosnian Serb Army, and on the 8th of May it was re-taken by pro-Bosnian forces. After that, Srebrenica became one of the few territories in Eastern Bosnia that never fell to the Army of Republika Srpska. In this small but free territory, the life of an ordinary person was a nightmare – because there were no functioning links between Srebrenica and the central part of the country, or any other controlled by BIH Army. The Army of Republika Srpska banned all aid convoys to Srebrenica, and occasional shelling of the town brought a humanitarian disaster even closer.
At the height of the vicious Bosnian War, in April 1993, the UN Security Council adopted its Resolution 819, placing Srebrenica, a small town in Eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, under the protection of the international peace forces. The Resolution stopped the takeover of Srebrenica by the Army of Republika Srpska and demilitarized the area, designating it as a UN protected area. The Canadian contingent – to be replaced by the Dutch Battalion in 1994 – arrived to Srebrenica tasked with protecting some 40,000 Muslim refugees from Eastern Bosnia in an area of approximately 133 square kilometers. During 1992 and 1993, Srebrenica had received a large number of displaced persons fleeing the neighboring municipalities of Bratunac, Zvornik, and Vlasenica, who found refuge in the area of Srebrenica. After having been expelled from other occupied towns and villages of the area, they found refuge in Srebrenica.
In April 1993, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 819, which declared Srebrenica a UN Safe Zone. The Canadian contingent – to be replaced by the Dutch Battalion in 1994 – arrived to Srebrenica tasked with protecting some 40,000 Bosniaks in an area of approximately 133 square kilometers. Soon after the declaration of the Safe Haven, it was also demilitarized: the Bosnian Muslim forces, completely surrounded, surrendered their weapons to UNPROFOR. Although formally under UN protection, Srebrenica was bombarded on a daily basis, and refugees and the local population lived with almost no food or medicines.
Two years after the signing of the Security Council Resolution, on the 6th of July 1995, an all-out attack was launched. On the 11th of July 1995, the Republika Srpska troops led by General Ratko Mladic entered the town. General Mladic made a triumphant statement in front of TV cameras, stating that he had finally entered the “Serb Srebrenica” and that “time has finally come for revenge against the Turks”. His words gave a precise ideological narrative underlying the crime. With this, the General referred to an event that had happened as long as two hundred years before the Srebrenica genocide, not in the territory of Srebrenica or Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in the territory of the then Belgrade province, which never included Srebrenica! The events that unfolded in the coming days were defined by the International Court of Justice in The Hague as a crime of genocide.
The first to be attacked were the outer areas – guard posts and checkpoints of the Dutch Battalion. The Dutch soldiers responded to the attacks by withdrawing to their base in Potocari, and the DutchBat commander sent an air support request to NATO. The UNPROFOR Command, led by the French General Bernard Janvier, refused the request. The shelling continued over the next few days, and the poorly equipped defenders withdrew to the periphery, while the Serb army approached the town to just half a kilometer. The Dutch Government reports indicated that Colonel Thomas Karremans had sent several air support requests, but they were all refused. And finally, after the Serb forces’ continuous advance towards Srebrenica, the air support request was approved. However, during the night, General Janvier canceled the air strikes – the planes that were supposed to fly from the NATO base in Northern Italy were ordered to stay on the ground. In a meeting with representatives of the enclave, held in the night between the 10th and the 11th of July, Colonel Karremans said that if the Bosnian Serb forces did not withdraw by the morning, the NATO planes would bomb them. Still, there were on air attacks on the 11th of July and the Serb forces entered the town. Tens of thousands of refugees flee the artillery and run from Srebrenica to Potocari, to the DutchBat Base, desperately seeking help. Although the territory of the base was sufficient to receive all the people seeking refuge, the Dutch soldiers initially allowed only 5,000 to enter, subsequently refusing to receive the remaining 20,000 unarmed civilians.
A small NATO airstrike did happen that day, around 2 p.m. but the Army of Republika Srpska threatened to kill all the Dutch soldiers who had moved to their positions three days earlier, and they also opened fire on a large group of refugees on the move. With Mladic making such threats and with the Dutch Defense Minister Joris Voorhoeve insisting, the NATO and UNPROFOR forces responded by canceling the strike. In the afternoon of the 11th of July 1005, General Mladic entered the town triumphantly and stated for the TV cameras present there that the “time has finally come for revenge against the Turks, following the uprising against their rule”. With this, the General referred to an event that had happened as long as two hundred years before the Srebrenica genocide, not in the territory of Srebrenica or Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in the territory of the then Belgrade province, which never included Srebrenica!
In the evening of the same day, General Mladic invited Colonel Karremans for a meeting, and later also the representatives of the enclave, requesting that the defenders hand down their weapons and surrender to the Bosnian Serb Army. In the meantime, following the fall of Srebrenica, most of the men and older boys, as well as a smaller number of women, took off towards the forests in an attempt to reach on foot the territories controlled by the BIH Army. This group, later to be named the March of Death, was under constant mortar and tank fire and was then cut into several smaller groups. The total number of people who tried to flee through the forest was between 12 and 15 thousand, and only 6 thousand survived. Under constant fire, many people from the back of the line surrendered to the Bosnian Serb forces, and some smaller groups were later ambushed around Srebrenica and caught. The Serb soldiers and police took them to different locations or killed them on the spot.
A group of people, more than a thousand, was taken to a farm in the village of Kravica and the entire group was shot dead. Just one man survived.
Several thousand people were brought to the football stadium in the town of Bratunac; they were then taken to different locations in the municipalities of Bratunac, Srebrenica, Vlasenica, and Zvornik, and that is where they were killed. Almost all of them were killed in the next few days, and their bodies were buried in mass graves.
At the same time, in Potocari, the Arm of Republika Srpska separated men and boys from the women, under the pretext of wanting to check if there were any war criminals among them. Their personal identification documents were from them and they were taken to the same locations as those who were caught in the march. They were killed too. Women and children were boarded on busses and forcibly deported to the territory controlled by the BIH Army.
By the end of the day of the 13th of July, there were almost no Bosniaks still alive in Srebrenica.
So in short, the military operation entitled “Krivaja 95” resulted in killings of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, mainly men, but also women and children. To this day, the exact number of confirmed deaths has reached 8,372. The killings were systematic, well organized and quick with no possibility for the demilitarized Bosnian Muslim forces to offer any resistance – but they were also with no response from the international community, first and foremost from the Dutch Battalion, assigned to the Srebrenica enclave. Although the international public knew about the events in Srebrenica as they were happening, the international community did not react and the NATO forces failed to send the air support they had promised.
The Dayton Peace Accords were signed shortly after the Srebrenica genocide, thus stopping the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Prior to that, in the summer and autumn of 1995, the Bosnian Serb Army tried to hide the traces and the magnitude of the crime by digging out the mass graves and moving the bodies miles away, in order to bury them in secondary and tertiary mass graves at secret locations. Witness statements before the International Tribunal in The Hague, as well as other evidence, indicate that these systematic crimes included not only members of the army and the police, but also the local Serb population.
In the years following the war, the International Commission for Missing Persons, the missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in the Hague, managed to re-construct the genocide and identify a large number of both the victims and the perpetrators. Still, the process of searching for the bodies, their exhumation and identification continue to this day, as well as the quest for admission of the truth about the horrific events in Srebrenica.
According to the Constitution, which is part of the 1995 Dayton Accords, Srebrenica is now part of Republika Srpska, one of the two entities comprised by the post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.
A judgement passed by the International Court of Justice in the Hague on 26 February 2007, in the case relating to application of the Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia and Montenegro, confirmed that what happened in Srebrenica was genocide.
Exhibition Srebrenica -Tarik Samarah
Tarik Samarah (photographer and founder of the Gallery 11/07/95) was born in Zagreb, and for the last thirty years has lived and worked in Sarajevo. His interests mainly reside in the field of artistic and documentary photography, and his most significant professional success is deemed to be the “Srebrenica – genocide in the heart of Europe” project – a series of black-and-white photographs documenting the aftermath of the Srebrenica genocide.
His photographs have been exhibited in many renowned art galleries and museums in the world, both independently and in collective exhibitions. In 2003, the exhibit was donated to the Memorial Centre in Potocari, as the first work of art to be exhibited in the future museum. On the tenth anniversary of the fall of Srebrenica, author’s photographs were exhibited in the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, and subsequently were also displayed in the UN Headquarters in New York, in Cape Town, in Geneve, in the Dutch Parliament in The Hague, Gallery du Jour in Paris, in the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Chicago and in many other cities. In 2005 he exhibited the images of the Srebrenica massacre on large commercial billboards in several cities in Serbia including Belgrade, Cacak, Nis, and Novi Sad. These posters carried the message: “To see, to Know, to Remember Srebrenica 1995-2005”, and were used to raise the awareness of the events that took place during the Srebrenica genocide. Samarah’s photographs also went around the world on the covers of various scientific and research books dedicated to the Srebrenica genocide. Today, they form the permanent exhibit in the Gallery 11/07/95 located in Sarajevo, a gallery that represents the final goal and summation of Samarah’s work on the topic.
Gallery 11/07/95 is the first memorial museum/gallery in Bosnia and Herzegovina – exhibition space aiming to preserve the memory on Srebrenica tragedy and 8372 persons who tragically lost their lives during the genocide. The permanent exhibition provides documentary scenes of what was left of Srebrenica in the wake of this genocide. Through a wide range of multimedia content – images, maps, audio and video materials, the Gallery aims to offer its visitors the documentary and artistic interpretation of the events that took place during July 1995 in this small town in Eastern Bosnia. The concept of the Gallery 11/07/95 is envisioned as the hybrid of museum and gallery space. Through the idea of cross- breeding museum and gallery form, and temporal designations of the past and future, as well as through the artistic and the documentary, the attempt is to counteract the homogenous and ideological interpretative strategies. Besides, the specificity of the Gallery 11/07/95 is the fact that it does not deal with the history in its final form, but it is also intervening into the historical moment that is not only a recent past, but belongs to the present as well.
“During the 1990s war in BIH I lived in Sarajevo. I was in my late twenties. I survived the siege of Sarajevo and all that happened here- days filled with death, hunger, thirst and despair. I saw bodies of dead children on the street. After the end of the war, I went to Eastern Bosnia. Although I knew what had happened there during the war, meeting the survivors, seeing the mass graves, feeling the smell of decomposing bodies-to me, all that was a new and horrifying experience. Still, all these years, I never allowed my life or work to be guided by hatred. It has always been love. I know one thing: if I hate, I am weak. Guided by the same thought, I founded the 11/07/95 Gallery in 2012. The aim of this gallery is to be a strong and decisive voice against all forms of violence in the world. Srebrenica is a symbol- not only of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also of the suffering of innocent people and the indifference of others. Just like the world watched peacefully as 8,000 people of Srebrenica were being slaughtered, it watches indifferently some other crimes today.”
Photographs by Tarik Samarah from Srebrenica series offer insights into the fragments of as yet unresolved Srebrenica trauma. These photographs represent the view of the emptied landscape of Srebrenica reality by eliminating a mediator between the observer and the observed. Black-and-white technique expresses the boundary between life and death- the reduction of colours is taking us into the world of grey where all norms of humanity cease to exist. Tat very insight into the liminality is fragmentary, and it does not permit the creation of one, unique and well-rounded narration. Excerpts from the everyday existence of the survivors, the landscapes of the crime, scenes depicting the discovery of the mass graves represent only a small part of the photographs’ contents. The photographs of Srebrenica fields of death do not produce a passive observer- consumer of the story; instead, they produce a witness.
Presentation of Trauma in photography:
"Srebrenica- genocide 11/07/95” by Tarik Samarah
"The photography can conserve a fragment of traumatic time.”
Twentieth century, which culminated with Srebrenica genocide, is marked by collosaI crimes, mass, systematic murders and great wars. Continued piling up of traumatic events, often beyond comprehension, created a crisis of testimony. Impossibility of writing poetry after Holocaust is a renowned thesis of Theodor Adorno, which admirably describes the inability of Language to articulate all that was inflicted upon human body. The crisis of representationalist model created significant doubts of the mere possibility to convey traumatic experience. History and evidence do exist, but only as a continuous sequence of events that is able to produce factual truth, but not the truth of experience and trauma. The trauma, structured as a sequence of discontinuous cross-sections of experience, is Looking for a medium able to demonstrate and capture the aforementioned discontinuity. Potentiality of such method of presentation is offered by the photography, as a medium characterized by the paradox-on the one hand, the conviction that photography is a pure representation (a Literal display of reality), and on the other hand, the fact that photography is able to capture the reality invisible to a naked eye.
Photographs by Tarik Samara from Srebrenica series offer insight into the fragments of as yet unresolved Srebrenica trauma. What occurred there is so horrible, so monstrous, that every description of the events fails their essence and eliminates their horror. These photographs represent the view of the emptied Landscape of Srebrenica reality by eliminating a mediator between the observer and the observed. Black-and-white technique expresses the boundary between Life and death-the reduction of colours is taking us into the world of grey where all norms of humanity cease to exist; those moral being among the first. That very insight into the Liminality is fragmentary, and it does not permit the creation of one, unique and well-rounded narration. Excerpts from the everyday existence of the survivors, the landscapes of the crime, scenes depicting the discovery of the mass graves represent only a small part of the photographs' contents.
The photographs of Srebrenica fiefs of death do not produce a passive observer-consumer of the story; instead, they produce a witness. Anticipation of the trauma is also possible because of the photographs depicting the aftermath of the traumatic events, and not the event itself. Absolute knowledge of the horrors is unthinkable, since it is Leaving the boundaries of everything conceived by the human mind; a road towards understanding trauma implies collecting the scattered pieces of reality.
Tuzla 2004 Camp for Srebrenica survivors
Tuzla 2004 camp for Srebrenica survivors
Tuzla, commemorative centre
Crime scene technician recording material evidence (clothing) found in a secondary mass grave
29 March 2003
Potocari, Battery Factory
Mortal remains of 599 men and one woman, two days before the funeral
Tuzla, Commemorative Centre
Mortuary in the Tuzla Commemorative Centre with 4,500 plastic bags containing complete corpses or parts of the victims, ready for the identification process
31 March 2003
Interment of mortal remains