Dozens of survivors of the Srebrenica genocide marched through the woods of eastern Bosnia on Wednesday along the route they took to escape Bosnian Serb death squads a quarter of a century ago this week.
Organisers had banned more people from joining due to the coronavirus pandemic and participants could not start the peace march as customary in the village of Nezuk due to a rising number of infections in the area.
Wearing face masks and waving Bosnian flags, the marchers passed the mass graves in which thousands of victims’ bodies have been found over the past two decades.
“We are sending messages to our kids so they will not forget what happened in Srebrenica,” said march participant Salih Mulalic. “I hope the genocide will not happen to anyone again.”
Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic attacked the eastern enclave of Srebrenica where about 40,000 Bosnian Muslims had found shelter under United Nations protection.
After Srebrenica fell into Serb hands on July 11, 1995, the women and children were separated from men and bussed to territory controlled by the Bosnian army.
Some 8,000 men and boys were then executed by Bosnian Serb forces, about 6,000 of them as they tried to escape through the woods and buried in mass graves.
In previous years, thousands of Bosnians and supporters have joined the three-day march along a 100-km forest trail.
This year, the commemorations will be marked mainly through exhibitions and conferences, and eight recently identified victims will be buried at a cemetery on July 11, anniversary day.
“This march is sad, depressing, it’s unusual without people,” said survivor Ramo Kadric, who was one of 15,000 men and boys trying to flee Bosnian Serb forces. “It reminds me of war.”
The Bosnian Serb government is indoctrinating children with denials of the genocide and wrecking attempts at reconciliation, the head of a U.N. court said in an interview.