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Durham University

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Remembering Srebrenica, 25 years on

(6 July 2020)

Remembering the Srebrenica genocide

We’re proud to be a diverse and inclusive community, welcoming staff and students from over 130 countries. That’s why we’re joining with others to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

What is the Srebrenica genocide?

In July 1995, during the Bosnian War, over 8,000 people – mostly Bosniaks – in and around the town of Srebrenica, part of modern day Bosnia and Herzegovina, were killed by units of the Bosnian Serb army under the command of Ratko Mladic.

The United Nations had declared Srebrenica a “safe area” under its protection, but failed to prevent the town’s capture or the subsequent massacre.

How is the anniversary being marked?

The UK’s Srebrenica Memorial Week for 2020 runs from July 5 to 12, organised by the Remembering Srebrenica charity.

We will be flying a Srebrenica genocide flag at Durham Castle, home to our University College.

Flags will also be flown at Durham Cathedral and County Hall, headquarters of Durham County Council.

We hope that the flags will help everyone reflect on the lessons of the genocide.

Smajo Beso, a Bosnian who now lives in the North East and has helped organise the commemoration, said to have his community’s pain and suffering acknowledged in this way is incredibly powerful and cathartic.

Our links with Bosnia

Our support for the Memorial Week is being led by Rev Gavin Wort, our Co-Ordinating Chaplain.

Gavin developed links with the Bosnian community in the North East in his previous role as a parish priest in the West End of Newcastle. In October 2018, he visited Bosnia-Herzegovina as part of an interfaith visit – an experience he found deeply moving and challenging. He’s now part of the North East Board of the Remembering Srebrenica charity.

We also have connections with Bosnia through our School of Government and International Affairs and Durham Global Security Institute.

Dr Stefanie Kappler, an Associate Professor in Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding, has conducted extensive fieldwork in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

With Dr Lydia Cole and the University of Manchester, she is currently working on a project exploring how art can be part of peace processes, with Bosnia-Herzegovina as one of four case studies. She has also researched how the ways past atrocities are remembered can impact the quality of peace in the present.

In April 2018, Dr Kappler organised for the interreligious choir Pontamina, from Sarajevo, to perform at Durham Cathedral. The event featured Nedzad Avdic, a Srebrenica survivor, telling his story.

Jeremy Cook, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience) served with the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia a few months after the genocide. He said the atrocities committed in the Bosnian War were truly frightening and his time in Bosnia had taught him that we must always remain vigilant to the threat of people who incite intolerance, hate and discrimination.

How can I get involved?

The theme for the UK’s Srebrenica Memorial Week for 2020 is ‘Every Action Matters’ and the Remembering Srebrenica charity has launched an Every Action Matters challenge for individuals.

It includes 11 actions for Saturday 11 July, Srebrenica Memorial Day: wear the Srebrenica flower, hold one minute’s silence, watch their video, post on social media, read a survivor’s letter or testimony, plant a flower or tree, make a pledge, light a candle, say a prayer or read a poem, donate to or fundraise for Remembering Srebrenica, take part in a peace walk or self-reflection walk and talk to someone new about Srebrenica.

For more information, please visit: srebrenica.org.uk