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Srebrenica, Dutchbat to become a Memorial

The Netherlands will turn old base of Dutch blue helmets into a museum

The Dutchbat, headquarters of the Dutch Batallion in Srebrenica

The Dutchbat, headquarters of the Dutch Batallion in Srebrenica Wikimedia commons

The Dutch government has decided to fund the restyling of the old factory of accumulators which from 1993 to 1995 was the base of Dutchbat, the batallion of Dutch blue helmets which would have had to protect the Muslim enclave during the war in Bosnia.

The government project provides to turn the restored building into a Memorial that will host a permanent exhibition “on the international presence in Srebrenica between 1993 and 1995", that is to say the period when the Dutch peacekeeping troops failed to prevent the massacre of 8,000 Bosniak boys and men by the hands of the Serb-Bosnian troops of General Ratko Mladić in the occupied town, on 11 July1995.

Today, nearly 20 years after genocide, the Dutch authorities decided for the first time to collect also the testimonies of the Dutch soldiers who, as the project plan reads out, deem their own stories as indespensable for a “complete reconstruction” of what happened in Srebrenica.

The response of genocide survivors arrived quite promptly. Although several Dutch veterans regularly go back to those places and keep ties with the victims’ relatives, many fear that the attempt to create a “shared narrative” about the bloodshed can lead to the rehabilitation of the deeds performed by the Dutch blue helmets. "We have not seen all elements of the plan, yet”- said Munira Subašić of the association Mothers from the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa to OsservatorioBalcani e Caucaso - "but if it has to be a pretext for even just a partial praise of the deeds by Karremans [the commander of the Dutch contingent Editor’s note], the blue helmets or the Dutch government, we cannot support it in any way. We are eager to cooperate, sure, but this does not deprive the victims of their right to be the sole controllers of the future accomplishment of the plan ".

The pathway to the project realization, as could be easily expected, starts as a slippery slope. It is true, as the experts of the Pax centre, the main curator of the exhibition, underlined, that the massacre was a catastrophe also for Holland and the country has always committed to keeping the memory of the Srebrenica events alive – starting from the sum invested in the realization of the Potočari memorial. But it is at least as true that the Dutch soldiers are responsible for letting 300 guys and men out of its building, where they had found shelter, which actually on that 11 July 1995 handed them to their executioners. The discovery in 2007 of a mass grave in the Dutch compound and the recent verdict with which the Hague found the Netherlands “liable” for the death of hundreds Bosnian Muslims, have embittered more and more the relationships between Holland and Srebrenica. A generous act of understanding and listening will be necessary to reopen the dialogue between veterans and survivors and share again their commitments towards reconciliation and justice. 

8 October 2014

Ethnic cleansing

in the former Yugoslavia

The federal Yugoslavia was formed by six republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia) and two autonomous regions united to Serbia (Kosovo and Vojvodina). As Tito died in 1980, there was a breakout of political tensions which resulted in the civil war between the different republics that formed the federal State.
From 1990 to 1999, with a precedent in 1989, when Serbia opposed Kosovo independence, the clashing forces used repeatedly ethnic cleansing in order to prevail. The data on the breadth of the mass murder are still provisional: the continuous discovery of mass graves makes it difficult to estimate it. Certain massacres, like the Srebrenica Massacre in 1995 in which the Serbs killed nearly 8000 Bosniak men and assaulted the remaining women, are historically infamous and provoked an international response.. The genocides were far from one sided, as most sides in the conflict attempted to eradicate the other through ethnic cleansing. These brutal attempts of homogenizing the country were inspired by extreme nationalism. The destabilization in the face of Tito's death provoked each ethnicity to vie for total control of the territory and ethnic purity.  The ensuing Yugoslav Wars where characterized by this type of violent ethnic conflict and consequently this series of conflicts is known as the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War 2. By 1995, nearly 100,000 people had been killed during this genocide.

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