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Outing Genocide

What is genocide? "The deliberate killing of a large number of people from a particular nation or ethnic group with the aim of destroying that nation or group."

So says the standard dictionary definition of the word. But dig deeper. Read about them. Hear the voices of people who survived them. Understand the grief those survivors feel for the rest of their lives. It's the human depiction of how genocide has affected one's life that will present you with the necessary perspective that goes well beyond definitions and statistics.

The most vivid example of genocide was the Holocaust. Six million Jews, and five million others including Roma, Roman Catholics, people of color, gays and lesbians, and many others deemed sub-human by the Nazis were murdered in concentration camps.

The "ethnic cleansing" campaign executed by the nationalist Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992-1995 was the worst genocide on European soil since the Holocaust. Bosniaks (Muslims) and Catholic Croats were the targets for persecution. 100,000 men and boys were murdered, and upwards of 50,000 girls and women, and even men were sexually assaulted and raped. Over two million people were displaced, with hundreds of thousands living elsewhere in the world, including the United States.

Genocides like those in Armenia, Cambodia, Rwanda, and Syria, to name only a few, still go on; Today, well over a million Uyghurs, who are a primarily Muslim minority in China, along with people of other religious minorities, are being held in state-sponsored internment camps, and subjected to murder, torture, rape, and "re-education" in communist doctrine. As has been repeated so often, the world has been slow to act, and myriad of people are being subjected to the heinous crimes that make up genocide.

If we wish to stop them, then we must understand them. In the 2021 Oscar-nominated film, Quo Vadis, Aida?, the viewer is confronted with the only crime in the Serb campaign to be deemed genocide by the war crimes tribunal in the Hague (others were mostly considered "crimes against humanity"). Known as the Srebrenica Genocide, 8,372 men and boys were murdered and put into mass graves, only to be moved to other graves to hide the evidence of the atrocities. There were women and children murdered as well, but just before the killings most were sent to so-called "safe zones" in other parts of Bosnia by the nationalist Serbian military, led by General Ratko Mladic, currently serving a life sentence for his role, along with Radovan Karadzic, former political leader of the Bosnian Serbs.

This is an important film for the very reason that the Srebrenica Genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not widely known. The depiction of this atrocity is humanized through the eyes of a Bosnian translator named Aida. Quo Vadis, Aida? is also meant to wake up those Serbs and others who are steeped in denial about the war crimes that their nationalist compatriots committed. The perpetrators of the "ethnic cleansing" campaign were not war heroes, or protectors of the Serb people as is the mantra of current-day revisionist history. The movie calls them out for what they are: purveyors of genocide.

I urge you to see this film. It provides us all with the impetus to recognize genocide, and to advocate for its eradication. For those who I have met from Bosnia, the war never leaves them. Unidentified remains of loved ones still exist in unknown mass graves. Some semblance of inner peace cannot happen without their discovery. The Srebrenica Genocide serves as a symbol for hate that reigned upon an unsuspecting people, but it should serve as a warning for what happens when we relinquish our obligation to protect those targeted by the authoritarian regimes of the world.

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide, July 11, 2020


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