East London political figures mark 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre with virtual memorial
PUBLISHED: 17:09 10 July 2020 | UPDATED: 18:18 10 July 2020
A virtual memorial has been held to mark the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide which killed more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.
With the anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since the Second World War tomorrow, July 11, political figures from Redbridge, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham came together to remember those who died.
The memorial — organised by Redbridge Council’s community engagement coordinator Yusuf Patel, Remembering Srebrenica and the Naz Legacy Foundation — also featured the testimony of survivor Jasmin Jusuf Jusufovic.
The survivor gave a chilling account of his experience: “War fell upon me age five. We were gradually chased from our homeland in eastern Bosnia, on several waves of aggression coming from Serbia. Finally, in 1994, we settled in Srebrenica. We came from bad to worse.”
Crediting his parents for giving him as normal a childhood as possible in “horrifying” circumstances, Jasmin continued: “We didn’t know what was going to happen. The only time when it became evident to us that there is no coming back, that we are all going to be slaughtered, was July 6 1995.”
The survivor explained that after four days of shelling from Serbian forces, he and his parents were forced to flee on July 11 following loud screams heard in the southern part of the town.
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Forced to abandon his precious books, Jasmin was temporarily separated from his mother; as she returned, Jasmin’s father was tragically lost: “The last image I remember of him is when a Serb soldier forceably took him away from us, shoving him in his back with a gun.
“He was standing on a canal which nowadays is an entrance to the memorial graveyard. He was holding my red hooded jacket, and he told me ‘keep silent and go on’.”
Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz said: “The events 25 years ago remain indelibly scarred in my mind. It’s our duty (the international community) not to fail them again, and to pledge, as always, never again. Tonight is an opportunity to know their names.”
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said: “We must learn from our history. Genocides do not happen overnight. It begins with hatred, intolerance — when it goes unchallenged. The lesson from Srebrenica is exactly that. It went unchallenged for too long.”
Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs said hatred is the driver of atrocity: “We must always stand up against bigotry.”
Cllr Dominic Twomey, deputy leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, identified education and hate crime as key areas of focus: “Once you allow things to go unchecked once, they will happen over and over again.”
To watch the recording of the memorial, click here.
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