Srebrenica victim: Today, no man from our family is older than 30

SEZA? KALAYCI
NEW YORK


Mirnesa Ahmic
July is a month of remembrance for most Bosnian Muslims who lost their loved ones in the Bosnian war, which claimed 100,000 lives. One of the victims is Mirnesa Ahmic from Srebrenica. She lost many members of her family, including her father.
The victims were among thousands of Muslims who took shelter in the enclave of Srebrenica, declared a “safe area” by the United Nations, as Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic overran Srebrenica on July 11 in what was to become the bloody climax of the 1992-95 Bosnian war. Mladic’s troops forced thousands of Muslim families out of the “safe area” and Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away and began executing over 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Those bodies were plowed into hastily made mass graves in what international courts have ruled was genocide.
The Parliament of the Republic of Serbia apologized in April of last year for the 1995 killings of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. Mladic, the ruthless Bosnian Serb military leader charged with orchestrating Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II, was arrested in May of this year in a tiny Serbian village after a 16-year manhunt.

Mladic’s arrest removed the most important barrier to the Western-leaning Serbian government’s efforts to join the European Union and to rehabilitate the country’s image from that of a pariah state that sheltered the men responsible for the worst atrocities of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.

Ahmic, who has been living in the United States since July 2001, shared some of her painful memories with us.

What do you remember from Srebrenica?

I was born in Srebrenica. My mother’s side is from Srebrenica and my father’s side is from Bratunac. But we lived in Bratunac until the war began. Almost every day we hid in my grandparent’s village and came back at night to get food or other things.

Why were you hiding?

We were hiding from Serb soldiers. We were in hiding for six months. It’s really hard for me to recall the details. I was only 7 years old at the time in 1993. After that, we moved to Srebrenica with my mom, my father and my brother. My mom, my brother and I stayed there about three months. After that, we moved to Tuzla. My father couldn’t come with us. He was stuck in Srebrenica. Srebrenica was the only safe place because eastern Bosnia was under occupation. The United Nations was involved and it took away any weapons we had, before deciding to evacuate the women and children. My mother, my brother and I left. However, my father stayed in Srebrenica along with the rest of my family — my uncles, my grandfather, my grandmother and every man from our family.

How did you move to Tuzla from Srebrenica? Can you give us more details about your journey?

We were moved by trucks and buses arranged by the UN. They told us that those trucks and buses were safe, but along the way some woman and children were taken off the buses by some Serbs to either be killed, abused, tortured or insulted.

Did you see any of that?

Of course, it happened even under the supervision of UN forces. They were protecting us just as they were supposed to protect Srebrenica before the massacre. I mean, the Dutch army was right there when Ratko Mladic, the Serb army butcher, started to kill people. They just watched it. No one did anything. If you look back, they [the Serb army] marched to Srebrenica on July 6 and killed more than 8,000 in five days. The world just watched. Not only did the UN forces watch the massacre in Srebrenica, the rest of the world did the same thing.

Tell me more about Srebrenica. Who was with you when you moved from Srebrenica to Tuzla?

When we were transported with trucks and buses, the Serbs lined up on the street and threw rocks at us. If you got hit, you’d bleed to death because nobody would help you. I saw some Bosnians dying in front of me. My brother and my mom were with me. When we left Srebrenica my brother was 10 years old. He was lucky in that he was moved from Srebrenica; otherwise, in 1995 anyone who was from his generation would have been killed. I know many families who lost their sons and grandsons.

 

We left Srebrenica in 1993 as my father forced us to leave because it wasn’t a safe place for us, but we did keep in touch for a two-year period. We were in Tuzla and my father was stuck in Srebrenica, along with my grandfather, uncles and everybody else from my family.

 

There were only ten or 15 trucks to take people out of Srebrenica. So it was on a first come, first served basis. The trucks were so full that some people died of suffocation. I remember that when we were on the truck, my brother and I were stuck in the corner of the truck, and my mother stood in front of us pushing the rest of the crowd with her back away from us. It was an extremely hard time. I thought I was dying. There was no water or food and it was very hot.

When did you lose contact with your father? Can you remember?

We used to write to each other and even spoke over the phone despite the fact that the phone conversations were limited. We were at a UN base in Tuzla and my father was at a UN base in Srebrenica. We lost touch on July 3, 1995. Everything happened so fast.

Did you expect a massacre in Srebrenica?

No, it came as a shock to all of us.

It’s hard for me to ask you this, but did you find your father’s body?

Yes, his body was discovered in a mass grave in 2003. He was identified and a funeral was held in Bratunac on July 11, 2004. We flew to Bosnia for his funeral. When we left him in Srebrenica he was 34 and when he was killed he was only 36.

Who else has been identified from your family?

My mother’s father and my uncle. Also my mother’s brother. Their funerals were held last year. My father’s brother has also been identified, but the funeral has not been held yet. It may be possible to have a funeral for him this month, but some of his body parts are still missing. My aunts’ husbands have not been discovered yet. I can say that every man older than 15 in our family who was in Srebrenica in 1995 was killed or disappeared. Today, no man from our family is older than 30.

What did you feel about Ratko Mladic when he was captured?

A lot of people said “justice has been served.” But why did it take so long to arrest somebody who killed thousands of innocent people? I can say I’m glad that he was captured, but that doesn’t bring our loved ones back. He’s been living as freely as anybody else. Justice has not been served yet. I feel like this benefits Serbia, which is not in our best interest right now. This is a ticket for Serbia to enter the European Union.


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