Remembering Srebrenica: ‘Stand up to hatred and intolerance wherever, whenever we see them’ 


"We have a duty to engage and educate young people about these tragic events and ensure the stories of the victims and families are never forgotten," writes Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. (Photo: PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images)
"We have a duty to engage and educate young people about these tragic events and ensure the stories of the victims and families are never forgotten," writes Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick. (Photo: PIPPA FOWLES/10 Downing Street/AFP via Getty Images)

By Robert Jenrick
Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

THIS week marks the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, the worst atrocity committed on mainland Europe since the Second World War.  

More than 8,000 people were killed – mostly Muslim men and boys – and many more were affected, including over 20,000 women and girls who were forcibly expelled.  

It is truly shocking and proof that hatred can take hold anywhere.  

This week we commemorate the victims and honour the bravery of those who survived the horror that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina 25 years ago.

 

File photo: A woman refugee from the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica bursts into tears upon her arrival in Tuzla, as part of some 2,000 fellow refugees, fleeing the Bosnian Serbian forces in a UN convoy during the turbulent early nineties. (PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

 

Reconciling the terrible events of the past, while the pain remains ever-present, remains a significant challenge.  

While some of those responsible for these heinous acts are behind bars, the need for justice continues. Only last month, a Bosnian court found three more men guilty of war crimes.  

Despite this, and the verdicts of two international court rulings that confirmed Srebrenica was a genocide, denial of these atrocities and the glorification of war criminals continue. 

That it is why we have a duty to engage and educate young people about these tragic events and ensure the stories of the victims and families are never forgotten.   

And whilst we are unable to commemorate together in person, it’s been humbling to see the virtual memorial events across the country and local councils this week. 

In Blackburn, memorial flowers have been left in local parks and town centres; in Kensington, the community held a minute of silence; and in North Staffordshire, the YMCA held a virtual webinar with a panel of experts, survivors and people who have recently visited and experienced Srebrenica.  

As Communities Secretary, I would like to personally extend my gratitude to councils and charities that are working hard to ensure that we never forget the Srebrenica genocide, that we learn from the lessons and stand up to hatred and intolerance wherever and whenever we see them. 

 

A Bosnian Muslim woman cries between graves of her father and other loved ones, who were victims of the Srebrenica genocide, on July 10, 2020, at a cemetery in Potocari near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Hercegovina. (Photo: Damir Sagolj/Getty Images)

 

Twenty-five years ago, Bosnian Muslims were murdered because of who they were.   

The victims were denied the chance to live their lives and fulfil their dreams. 

Each July 11 affords us the opportunity to remember them, those that are still missing and all who have been affected by the atrocity, to pause and reflect on the devastating consequences of where hatred left unchecked can lead to. 

This time last year, thousands of people gathered from communities to commemorate and remember those who lost their lives.  

While we may not be meeting in person this year, we can remember together and ensure that the voices of those who grieve for the over 8,000 murdered men and boys are never silenced.