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Genocide Film Library project in Bosnia

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oral history, srebrenica, bosnia,Oral history project to record life stories of the Srebrenica genocide.

When the Bosnian town of Kozarac fell to the Serb forces in the first months of war, whole Bosniak families were herded into the barbed confines of Trnopolje.

The Report of the United Nations Commission of Experts to the Security Council (the Bassiouni Commission Report) later called Trnopolje a concentration camp, and it did evoke memories of the Holocaust.

When, after a month of horror, seven-year-old Elmina Kulasic was transferred out of Trnopolje and put on a train to Zagreb, she encountered a Croat man who “told us that the Chetniks [Serb nationalists] had probably killed my elder, disabled sister, and raped my other one.

“He said that it was only a matter of time before my father was dead.”

On 11 July 1995, Serb atrocities culminated into the worst carnage in Europe since the Second World War when, in a UN-declared ‘safe haven’, 8,000 Bosniak men were separated from their women and murdered.

Twenty-one years on, Bosnia remains divided.

With genocide denial and nationalist rhetoric of politicians permeating everyday life, words like ‘closure’ and ‘reconciliation’ have been only meaningless words.

Elmina Kulasic survived, and she now works at the Cinema for Peace Foundation (CPF) in Sarajevo as the program development coordinator for ‘The Genocide Film Library‘.

As the first oral history project of the war, it aims to record 10,000 life stories of the Srebrenica genocide.

It has collected over 1,175 narratives since January 2011.

“Innocent people were killed for no reason other than their different identity, Kulasic said, speaking to Heba Al-Adawy recently.

It takes a lot of courage to tell your story, she continued, and this telling “takes the war to a personal level.”

For, as she pointed out, you “cannot hear a personal narrative and look away”.

In the midst of narratives skewed by the distant and the recent history of the region, and by politics, the Genocide Film Library seeks to do justice to history by giving voice to the survivors silenced by politics.

Although a few survivors testified at The Hague during the trials of war criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, there has been no large-scale reckoning with the truth in Bosnia, as there was in South Africa.

The archived testimonies will be made available to schools and universities, to researchers and policy makers – an important move in Bosnia’s awfully politicised education sector.

But as sixty-four year old survivor Fatima Alijic pointed out: “Genocides still go on in the world. Srebrenica didn’t teach anyone a lesson.”

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