Joyce says remember and learn lessons from Bosnian genocide

Lessons of Srebrenica ‘timely and resonant’

Joyce Watson AM will bring a message of tolerance to a memorial event marking the 22nd anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide – the single greatest atrocity in Europe since the Second World War.

At the reception (Wednesday 12th July), the Mid and West Wales Assembly Member will say:

“The lessons of Srebrenica seem both timely and resonant at a time when extremists seek to separate us through acts and words of hate.

“Jo Cox MP was murdered one year ago for her views, having famously said that we have more in common than divides us. That search for common ground seems an essential way for us to tackle hatred and division in all their forms.

“22 years after the systematic slaughter of Bosnian Muslims, followed by ongoing attempts to deny this, it is vital we remember and learn lessons from that genocide.

“We must live with each other, not next to each other.”

The memorial reception will be held at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday 12th July and will be hosted by Saleem Kidwai OBE, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, and David Melding AM, Co-Chairs of Remembering Srebrenica Wales.

Last year Mrs Watson visited Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina with a delegation of Assembly Members, organised through the UK charity Remembering Srebrenica.

She heard from survivors of the events of July 1995, when Bosnian Serb soldiers marched on the mountain settlement and systematically murdered 8,372 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

She met Nedzad Avdic at Srebrenica’s memorial cemetery. Seventeen years old at the time of the killings, Nedzad described how he was shot by soldiers and left for dead. He escaped and eventually returned to Srebrenica 12 years later.

Joyce Watson AM said:

“Visiting Srebrenica, hearing the testimony of survivors like Nedzad and family members of victims, was an overwhelming and harrowing experience. It is crucial that we keep the memory of the genocide alive. We must understand its causes, honour that lost generation of victims, and learn its lessons.

“We Assembly Members who visited Srebrenica have all pledged to promote knowledge of the conflict here in Wales, using the education pack which Remembering Srebrenica has produced.”

In 1992, following Bosnia’s declaration of independence from the disintegrating Yugoslavia, Bosnian Serb forces laid siege to the nation’s capital, Sarajevo. As the war escalated the Serb policy of ethnic cleansing forced many Bosnian Muslims towards Srebrenica, which was designated a safe area by the UN. In July 1995, however, Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop Serb forces moving into the area and murdering more than 8,000 male Muslims.

Reflecting on the conversations she had with survivors, the Mid and West Wales AM added:

“When I asked them, “Why?” they described how Bosnia, an integrated and cohesive society, quickly collapsed into discrimination and hate, extremism and violence. We must be ever vigilant against these forces taking root in our own communities.”

Some senior Serb leaders have been convicted at The Hague International Criminal Court. Last year Radovan Karadzic, former leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, was found guilty of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

More information about the project can be found on the Remembering Srebrenica website, www.srebrenica.org.uk.