Sunday, May 29, 2011

Srebrenica 1995: Shooting Muslims in a Barrel

A Bosnian woman mourns over coffins of a newly identified victims during preparations for mass burial at the Potocari memorial cemetery near Srebrenica on Saturday [July 10, 2010]. AFP photo

"Shooting fish in a barrel" is an English language idiom to express something that is simple, effortless, with guaranteed success. Not only is the visualization of the image espressive of that characterization, but Mythbusters has tested the reality. If the bullets don't kill the fish, the shock waves from the bullets impacting the water do.

The recent arrest of General Ratko Mladić in Bosnia has reminded the world of the Srebrenica Massacre in July 1995, part of the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims perpetrated by Bosnian Serb Orthodox Christians during the Bosnian War (1992-1995) . Mladić was the military executioner (in both senses of the term) responsible for the realization of a political agenda set by the Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, and the Serbian President of the Republika Srpska [Bosnian Serb Republic] Radovan Karadžić.

To that end, Mladić laid siege to Srebrenica, a Bosnian Muslim city near the border with Serbia. The takeover of Srebrenica and the forced displacement of its 75% Muslim populace was to be the cornerstone of an ethnic cleansing of all of Bosnia's Muslims. However, forced displacement proved insufficient, or rather, inconveniently difficult.

Once the city was taken, it was easier to round up almost 8000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim males between the ages of  8 and 77, hold them in places like schools, and then take them out on buses to isolated fields, where shoeless, blindfolded, and with their hands tied behind their backs they were lined up and shot. The "resisters"--that is those who somehow didn't die on the first round--were re-shot, individually, up close and personal. All were buried in mass graves. In a cover-up attempt, they were later reburied in 70 smaller mass graves.

The women of Srebrenica, still seeking answers, 15 years on, in July 2010.

The well-planned and methodical execution of such massive numbers of one ethnicity by another is reminiscent of the Nazis. Indeed, the Srebrenica Massacre is the largest mass killing in Europe since the Holocaust. It was similarly efficient: nearly 8000 in few days, particulary in the first 30 hours.

It was particularly shocking to the outside world, as this sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen in Europe, white on white, especially after the Holocaust, especially after the formation of the European Union. Then again, as Frantz Fanon wrote about the Holocaust itself, genocides in African countries, white on black or black on black, were common and relatively ignored--part of the offensiveness of the Holocaust was about it being a genocide within "civilized" Europe.

The Srebrenica Massacre, like the Holocaust, has other layers of offensiveness and horror. 25-30,000 Bosnian women and children were bused out of the city to designated safe zones--that is, the land the Bosnian Serbs designated as where Bosnian Muslims would be allowed to live. Except some of the buses didn't reach their destination.

Srebrenica was itself a UN designated safe zone for Muslims displaced by fighting in other parts of Bosnia. More Bosnian Muslims than usual had "conveniently" gathered there under the protection of Dutch UN forces. As a condition of their safekeeping they were required to hand over what few arms they had. Thanks to a mid-war UN embargo on arming the region, the Muslims had been prevented from arming, while the Serbs and Croats were already fully armed.

As conditions deteriorated in Srebrenica, the Muslims asked the Dutch for their arms back in order to defend themselves. This was refused. On the other hand, the desperate pleas for reinforcements and proper defensive abilities by the Dutch were refused by the UN. NATO airstrikes against the Serb cordon around Srebrenica were belated, few, and halted by bad weather. President Bill Clinton has said that his failure to act faster and better in the Bosnian War is the major regret of his Presidency.

Deportation and massacre were 2 methods of the planned ethnic genocide of Bosnian Muslims. Another was systemic rape of Bosnian Muslim women--to defile them in their own eyes, to disrupt the social order of the enemy, and to create a legacy of traumatized women, humiliated men, and children no one would want. Attempts to refute this, to argue it was part of the strategy of all parties in the Bosnian War, or part of a massive pro-Bosnian Muslim propaganda campaign have proven futile.

I know of a scholar married to a Serb who tried. I have read the documents of her plan for her summer of research and the resulting article. She went to prove it wasn't happening, or not the way the press was saying it was. She came up with some Serbian women who had been repeatedly gang raped in Bosnian Croatian war camps. Her final article didn't mention the original research hypothesis or her "negative results".

There are many gruesome, and gruesomely accurate photos of the Srebrenica Massacre. I have chosen not to include them here. If I were to do so, I would highlight this one, of an exhumed Bosnian Muslim-- blindfold, ligatures, and horrified expression still intact.

Shot like a fish in a barrel.

Gravestones at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial. As of July 2010, the 15th anniversary of the massacre, 6,690 victims identified and buried.

Your comments, thoughts, impressions?
Any other instances of "shooting Muslims in a barrel" come to mind?


Wendy said...

After the Holocaust it was to be Never Again but it is always Again and probably life will continue that way with eyes turned away because it is happening to somebody else and never realizing or believing or understanding that Somebody Else could one day be you or your family.

Jay Kactuz said...

And why should anybody be surprised at mankind’s inhumanity (?) to his own species? Human history is 6000+ years of oppression, brutality, conquest, murder, exploitation and discrimination – with a few brief moments of peace and beauty. Does a “Mona Lisa” justify the brutal conquest of Jerusalem in 1080? Do Shakespeare’s works balance out the extermination of Native Americans? I don’t know, but probably not.

By all accounts, Germany in the early 20th Century was a leader in science and intellectual endevours – so much that until the mid-30’s jews were saying “It can’t happen here – not in white, civilized Germany”. Well, it can happen anywhere, anytime.

Even the “I/We wouldn’t be a part of THAT” excuse probably doesn’t hold up well. Fortunately most of us have not / will not have to make that choice. If it is us, our family or friends, we too often turn a blind I to evil. To the few heroes that that through the ages stood up for right even at the cost of their lives, my silent admiration. Too often, also, I think it is a person’s fear for family that frightens him/her. One may take a position for self but when loved ones are at risk, the situation changes. I am not trying to make excuses for evil, but one must attempt to understand. The “they did it to us” and /or “them or us” excuses have no moral justification but certainly exist within the human context.

The human race is a scourge upon this planet. We are dishonest, egoistic and brutally ignorant of the consequences of our actions. I remember an activist from Darfur writing about sitting at a table outside a “Holocaust never again” event in DC and as the attendees would leave that building they would look away when approaching the table with materials about the atrocities in Sudan.

Yes the Srebrenica Massacre will happen again and again. People will either make excuses or ignore it. They will condemn it from the safety of their conform zone or they will condemn it even as they ignore their own similar actions. I say that because the Srebrenica massacre in so many ways is an eerie, close repetition of the massacre of the Banu Qurayza by Mohammad, not that a Muslims would condemn that, because it was not them being killed. And then people ask why I am so cynical about the human race.

We, collectively, suck.

Haitham هيثم Al-Sheeshany الشيشاني said...


this is so sad!

the 1st pic is beyond sad kaman! :'(

jaraad said...

Thank you for this post. One would think two destructive wars, in the recent history, would make Europeans wiser when it comes to analyzing the consequences of starting a war. I am happy that Mladić is finally captured but not happy that many people in his area consider him a national hero.

Susanne said...

Thank you for sharing this although it is sad. I think we need reminders like this so we won't think we have evolved into species that would never do such a horrible thing!

I read this and wonder how things will turn out in Syria. The government has most of the weapons at its disposal while few ordinary Syrians have any. Not that the people want them. They desire to have peaceful protests and not a situation such as Libya where the rebels are armed. Yet the Syrian military has shown no hesitation in killing protesters even castrating a 13 year old boy and torturing him in other ways before returning his body to his family. It's sad when humanity shows this brutal side, but as Jay says, it's as old as humanity, sadly.

Maybe this is part of our fallen nature...what we can do (in extreme cases?) if we have no fear of a higher power/God/conscience/whatever.

Majed said...

Chiara, Thank you so much for this post, in case of Srebrenica, don`t you think the attack was from one direction to keep their backs watched and supply line uninterpreted from Serbia,so it is hard to call it a siege as obviously it aimed to make people withdraw to north or west to create a clear and ethnically divided territories,and why no one asked why the 28th MOUNTAIN division of 2nd corps of about 8000 strong, that was in the enclave did not take defensive measures and in the mean time evacuate civilians to Bosnia instead of escaping for their lives and get slaughtered like sheep in the process, without fight, they could have at least overpowered 400 Duch UN soldiers and take their arms to die fighting,and why did not the 2nd cops show any effort to vacuum some pressure by engaging the Serbs with small troops here and there, a lot of question marks to be answered. these are simple things that they teach during compulsory conscription period.

I have always tried to avoid reading about massacres against Muslims in Bosnia,based on what my Grand mothers (rahmatuallah alaiha)once told me,when I complained that somebody had beaten me,that one hand does not clap.

So, I always thought, that, If I read about it,I might find that Muslims Bosnia, may be brought it to themselves by doing something similar to what The Banu Qurayza did to Muslims of Almadina when Muslims very existence was at stake,and the fair punishment the got in return for their treason, and that(the Trench Battle) would not have happened in the first place,had the other two Jewish tribes that were exiled unharmed faced Banu Qurayza 's fate).

This post of yours made me break my shell and go out to look for the truth, no matter how bitter the truth might be. and So I did,I have not finished Yet, as it is too complicated and keeps ramifying.

So far,it seem that Muslims are in the clear,except that Serbs as a pretext for their atrocities hold them responsible for things happened to them(Serbs) at the hand of Croatian controlled Handschar Division , that was formed during Nazis occupation and in the Independent state of Croatia , but as per some Nazi German commanders who told Hitler that ( By the New Year of 1943 over 100,000 Bosnian Muslims had been killed (9% of all Bosniaks at the time) and 250,000 had been expelled from their homes – mostly by Serb Chetniks. "The Muslims" remarked one German General, "bear the special status of being persecuted by all others".
I guess it literally meant all PARTIES including their own politicians.
I have to go back to finish my study you have given me a lot of homework indeed.

Majed said...

The Balkans history is very creepy and horribly full of ethnic and religious violence,I feel sorry for people who are living there,I can't but admire their courage for keep living there, It reminds me of the tales old Indian folks tell about communal violence between Hindus and Muslims that ensued the partition of of India and how people butchered each other and how in particular Muslims girls and women jumped or were pushed into water wells to avoid rape and how they abducted each others women and girls and killed men children and women,the violence cost India about a million soul and displace about 12 million Indians, and years back the horrific violence that erupted in Gujarat in 2002 and claimed thousands of lives and spoiled lives of about 2000 rape victims all Muslims, no one was brought to justice locally so far just because of their fat vote banks,and no one made any comment internationally just because India is great.

Anonymous said...

religion is the cause of al evil -- or atleast religion as interpreted by man!!!

I'm from India and i still see th eanguish on my granma's eyes when she talks about her family brutally murdered during the partition and that too by muslims she knew all her life..
she longs to go see her hometown in pakistan where her parents were killed and probably burned ???
personally i feel once you identify with a specific religion it's all down hill from there. we'll annihilate each other in the name of god!!! or we canbut hope to turn agnostic and save ourselves.
ever since then she has a streong faith in god but does not believe in any religious tags...
we need to treat and see each otehr as human beings first and than add a religious tag later...

oby said...

Newsweek today came out with the story about Srebrenica...moving. One theory is that he went mad after his daughter killed herself with his favorite gun (sounds terribly Freudian to me)and became an unmerciful butcher...

Majed said...


I feel sorry for your gramma and all those lost their lives or their loved ones and also for those who were displaced.

Partition was one the worst moment of India `s history it has left scars that will take long long time to heal.
I can only imagine with chills running up and down my spine,the miseries that might have ripped through the hearts of those, who were raped and looted on the journey into perpetual seas of sorrow, and how that people were degraded so low as to use Women especially, to inflict pain to each others Hindus,Muslim and Sikh without exception , I heard about those ghost trains full of women with severed breasts that arrived in each of the newly formed countries from across the borders.

All those Indians lived for centuries each adhered to his own faith, if there really was any,then it was only a very rare case that a conflict erupted between two religious groups, most of precolonial conflicts were power struggles, all Indian warring parties consisted of Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs,and even many of Aurangzeb 's famous battles, the emperor that is being depicted as Orthodox Muslim was led by Hindu generals and consisted as many Hindu soldier as Muslims, it was never about religion, people will always find a reason to fight, was WWI or WWII religious wars, give me one single war that was purely religious, religions always used to instigate feelings and summon moral and material support for the real cause,if there was no religion it will be an ideological wars, ethnic wars,border wars,water wars ,fuel wars and keep counting, there will always be some reason to go to war, war is an essential and nonnegotiable clause in the Constitution of this universe.

partition of India was only continuation of the famous British policy of divide and rule and their expression of their gratitude to the greatest jewel in the British crown,thanks to their pawn the (GREAT) Muslim leader Jinah whose own non-Muslim daughter is still lives in India.


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