Commemorating Srebrenica

A visit to Bosnia accompanied by Working Group the Netherlands - Srebrenica

- Adzer van der Molen & Erna Rijsdijk -


In 1995, a Dutch battalion UN soldiers was stationed in UN "safe area" Srebrenica at the time the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) conquered the enclave. There are still many questions to answer about the exact course of events concerning the establishment and the fall of the enclave. About 7000 former residents of the enclave are still missing.

Commemoration ceremony at the former Dutchbat compound in Potocari

On 8 July, we set off for a trip to Bosnia with a group of 25 people. We were invited to do so by the Working Group Netherlands-Srebrenica. The aims of the three members of the Working Group - Abel Herzberger, Magda van der Ende and Ineke Meintjens-Ooteman - include the improvement of relations between the survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and the Dutch community, and support for the exhumation and identification of the victims.

Our journey had several purposes. Firstly, we wanted to demonstrate our solidarity with the survivors by attending the commemoration ceremony in Potocari on 11 July - exactly 5 years after the fall of the enclave. Our second goal was to listen to the questions and problems of the survivors and to see whether we could address some of their needs to the appropriate (government) organisations in the Netherlands or elsewhere. In order to inquire about the situation of the survivors, we visited several organisations and refugee camps in Tuzla, Sarajevo, Vogosca, Suceska and Mihatovic. Thirdly, our trip was meant to explore the conditions under which the Working Group can contribute to the return of the Bosniac refugees to Srebrenica. This plan of the Working Group involves Dutch, English and French non-military volunteers who will work for some time in Srebrenica together with Muslims and Serbs. For this reason, we visited a group of Serbian women in Srebrenica to see what their situation is like and to listen to their opinions on this issue.

We are confident in saying that our trip to Bosnia was a success. Not only because of our personal experiences, but most of all because of the positive responses that we received from the people we have met. Nevertheless, this report is not at all a feel good story. We realise that the experiences of the people involved in the Srebrenica tragedy go far beyond the extent of this report. Yet, we understood that it was much appreciated that we listened and showed our willingness to report about our findings. For this reason, we would like to invite you to have a look at our photo gallery.

 Amsterdam, August 2000

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