July 11, 2009 was the fourteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina and it was marked by another mass funeral for some 520 souls whose remains were identified in the last year. Estimates of the total deaths in this genocide are around 8000 Muslim men and boys. I previously visited the town of Srebrenica and the memorial in the nearby village of Potocari in 2007 as a student traveler in Bosnia, and this past Saturday was my first return to the site since then. I rode one of dozens of free buses from around Bosnia to the memorial service with scores of pilgrims and family members of the victims. Of course a sad, powerful day but more than a decade on from the event an attitude of solidarity and keeping the memory alive sweeps through the crowd. There is still grief, and fear, amongst those who experienced this horrible event but we are entering a time where the future, not the past, is what must be called in to question. Next year will be the fifteenth anniversary of Srebrenica, and there will again be a burial of many more victims along with speeches from many honorable guests, and we will still ask why. But now too we must face the fact that politics and social development are reaching the stagnated limits of the Dayton Accords and some sort of break with this peace treaty must happen. Slowly or suddenly, Bosnia and Herzegovina must avert itself from its current dead-end path towards some polity that is equitable, sustainable and promising. This country today displays hardly any reflection of those attributes, a harsh reality in this worsening economic climate along a steep path towards European integration.
These are a few pictures from the ride and memorial. A memorable day, not least for the incredible effort amongst all the people to make it out to the remote town. The buses were to leave Sarajevo at 5am but were delayed by the crowds of citizens who could not fit into the allotted amount of buses, who demanded transportation to the memorial before they would clear the road. Hours late my bus, filled with somber but enthusiastic pilgrims, arrived at the field and grave site before a humbling prayer and burial service. After, on the ride home, everyone was in a good, warm mood filled with pride for being able to honor the memorial with their presence. This was a fascinating experience and I was honored to visit with the Bosnians who worked hard to pay their respects.