It was on Thursday night that I was checking my Twitter account and I found a beautiful and at the same time heart breaking post: some supplications for those who died in the Bosnian genocide, back in the nineties.
I was a little child when this happened, I was not even a Muslim by then.
I embraced Islam in February 2001, when I was 16 years old, and I felt so proud of my religion. I was a hijabi from the very first day. It was not easy. My parents were totally against Islam.
That same year the 9-11 attacks took place, and everything seemed to be worse: my parents forbade me from attending the mosque as a desperate measure to take me outside my new faith.
At home, with my books and PC as my only company, I investigated terrorism and its roots. Somehow I read about the genocide in Bosnia. We didn’t study it at school, we didn’t hear it on the news. It didn’t receive the media coverage that it really needed. Not in my country at least. I remember I cried when I read the story, facts, and some memories shared by victims.
Now, 24 years later, I decided to write this article to help us remember what happened then, and overall, to keep those victims alive in our prayers.
It was in the spring of 1992 that Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Of a population of 4 million at that time, 44% were Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). The Bosnian Serbs wanted to forge an independent state. Their plans included ethnic cleansing by removing the Bosniaks from the area.
In 1994 the U. N. disarmed three eastern Bosnian towns: Srebrenica, Žepa and Goražde, so that they would be “safe heavens” protected by international peacekeepers.
On July 11th 1995, Serbian forces overthrew the Dutch peacekeepers. In four days 8,000 Bosnian Muslims (men and boys) were hunted, killed and buried in hidden mass graves. Later examination of the bodies showed that they were mutilated and their extremities tied before their execution.
At the same time, 20,000 women and children were forced to leave their homes to Serbian controlled areas and camps where sexual violence was used. Some of the abused were as young as 12.
24 years later, many Bosniaks are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. Some others were able to bury their relatives, some only pieces of them. This year, 33 newly identified victims were able to be put to rest. Over 1000 are still missing.
I believe that it is important for us to understand these painful events of our past, to prevent them from happening again. And although we Muslims may be scattered throughout the world, and we may think that there is little or nothing to be done, we have a very powerful weapon with us: duas (prayers). Yes, I do believe in the power of supplications. That’s why I wrote this article. Because I want every Muslim to remember those who died. They deserve our prayers, even if it is a silent prayer. They deserve to be honored with our hearts in our supplications. Their families and victims deserve our duas to be with them, to find some peace.