HRLC is delighted to announce that as part of the exhibition curated by Remembering Srebrenica, on display on the ground floor in Hallward Library, Safet Vukalic, a Bosnian Muslim and survivor of the ethnic cleansing in Prijedor, will visit the University and share his story on Tuesday 14 May at 2pm in the Hallward Screening Room. All welcome.
“Prior to the war we all lived peacefully together. At school my class was roughly half Muslim and half Serb and other religions, not that most of us paid attention to religious difference. When we had a break the boys would grab a ball and play football – two teams against each other, not divided by religion. We shared everything – the same school, the same entrance, unlike some parts of Bosnia today.
Then came 1992. When the local government in Prijedor was overthrown by the Serbian ‘Democratic’ Party led by Karadzic, everything went downhill. Local propaganda on public TV and radio was working non-stop to ensure the Serb population would fear Muslims, or at least be confused. All sorts of stories were going around. My favourite was when Prijedor Radio said all Muslims received a list of Serbs to kill. I joked that our list got lost in the post.”
Although Srebrenica is the only mass killing in the Balkan wars that has been officially ruled as genocide by the international courts, this atrocity was only the final act in a much broader genocidal strategy – referred to as “ethnic cleansing”. The Srebrenica massacre was the planned, systematic and industrialised conclusion of a four-year campaign of forced deportation, torture, mass murder and systematic sexual violence by Bosnian Serb forces in service of their goal to create a “Greater Serbia”.
Genocide does not happen overnight. It begins when hatred and intolerance are left unchallenged or are manipulated for political gain. With the fall of Yugoslavia, politicians in the region used divisive nationalism to gain power and influence. Propaganda and misinformation were utilised to spread first fear and then hatred, breaking part decades of trust between vibrant and integrated communities and turning neighbour against neighbour.
The lesson from Srebrenica is that no society is invulnerable to prejudice and intolerance. We must remain vigilant against all these forces, take positive action to build stronger, more resilient communities.