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Genocide is the World's Problem

Every February 15th "Statehood Day" is celebrated in Serbia, and January 9th marks the same for Republika Serbia (RS). Yet, there is something gravely amiss on these days. In both cases, the homage to nationalism celebrates the “greatness” of the Serbian people and its history, to include honoring its war heroes both past and modern day, while denying the genocide it wrought upon Bosnia. The day marks two pivotal events in restoring the nation's statehood: its revolution to free itself from Ottoman Turk rule in 1804, and the creation of its constitution in 1835. For RS, the date is significant for establishing its statehood, for which it is not an actual state but an entity carved out within Bosnia and Herzegovina by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, and despite the fact that Bosnia's Constitutional Court ruled the holiday unconstitutional.

There is no, nor has there ever been acknowledgement of the genocide by Serbia and RS of what they perpetrated against Muslims and Croats in Bosnia. No open dialogue, as painful as that might be, or nod toward reconciliation for the role they played in destroying the lives and property of so many who it targeted for eradication. For Serbia, there is only pride for how it has always defended itself and always will, from those who it perceives as obstructing its greatness. Being that RS is majority Orthodox Christian Serb, and that it was Serbia which launched the "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992, the two are essentially indistinguishable.

There are many memorials for fallen military “heroes” in Serbia and RS, but virtually none for victims. In Germany, there are over 2,000 memorials to Jewish and the myriad other victims of the holocaust. Though Germany is now wrestling with how to ensure that its citizens, and newer diverse communities, continue to understand the significance of what its leaders did during the most horrific genocide in human history, it at least is cognizant of the need for conversation that government officials, scholars, journalists, and its people must have.

The denial by most Serbians in both places (credit the few brave souls that work to counter that narrative at some peril) continues to gain momentum worldwide among ultra-nationalists who believe that they are in a struggle to root out invading Muslims whose goal it is to take over the world. This battle, it is said, has been fought since the crusades, on through the Ottoman Empire, and it continues today. Serbia is a model for modern-day vitriol in the resurrected fear-mongering by war criminals Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic whose plan of genocide was done in the name of preservation of the white, Orthodox Christians in their country.

The murderers in the massacres in New Zealand and Norway over recent years were discovered to have manifestos not only praising Serbia of the 1990s, but claiming to be an extension of that same movement. In an article in on March 22, 2019 titled, “Why Serb Nationalism Still Inspires Europe’s Far Right,” Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 50 people in attendance at two mosques in New Zealand subscribed to what is called the “Great Replacement Theory.” (Tucker Carlson of Fox News has recently ranted about it in relation to migrants coming to the U.S.)

This conspiracy theory posits that Muslim immigration to Western countries is a secret plot to “outbreed” white Christians of European ancestry and thus take over their “homelands.” A peculiar brand of Islamophobia, the article goes on to say, it is rooted in anti-Ottoman sentiment.

Given that this is viewed as justification for the horrific violence it perpetrated against Muslims during the genocide in Bosnia, can one ever expect the disintegration of denial and revisionism in Serbia and RS? It will only come when the more moderate voices in the Balkans, other countries in Europe, and the world dispel the conspiracies, and bring Serbian and Bosnia's Serbian citizenry the truth.

I write about both tragedy and resilience of Bosnians with the hope that the small role I play in helping others understand that crimes against humanity, as woven into paranoid conspiracy theories and manifestos, can only serve to put all of us at risk unless the voices of reason and compassion are allowed to rise above the perverted din. And, I daresay, as numerous governments now edging toward authoritarianism write their own narratives about who the perceived “enemy of the people” is, the world moves closer to buying into those who see Serbian doctrine as righteous.

Trying to conceal its crimes of genocide, the Bosnian Serb military dug numerous mass graves throughout Bosnia that continue to be discovered, giving some sense of closure to victims' families.

(photo: Brittanica)

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