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It happened twenty years ago.
Over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and children were separated from their mothers, sisters, wives and daughters, brutally murdered and then buried in mass graves in the city of Srebrenica.
A little background: Srebrenica is a city in Bosnia that was named a safe area by the United Nations in 1993, amid the Bosian War. However, the UN failed to keep the Bosnian Serb Army from taking the city in 1995.
The massacre was just one of numerous crimes against humanity committed against Bosnia’s Muslim population. Women and girls of all ages were systematically raped. Serbian soldiers left them humiliated, pregnant and widowed in a post-war society.
Fast forward twenty years, and the citizens of Bosnia are still working to rebuild and recover, particularly in Srebrenica. Surviving family members are still waiting for search crews to find and identify loved ones who were cast into mass graves so that they can rebury them where they choose.
As someone who shares a culture and religion with these people, it is important for me to remember Srebrenica in my prayers, especially in Ramadan, as well as do what I can do to make sure it doesn’t ever happen to anyone else.
Sometimes the best way to move on from a tragedy is to realize the lesson that came with it. What did we as humans learn from this? Can we say that we have never committed such horrors since?
Only earlier this week did Russia refuse to call the tragic events in Srebrenica a genocide, Syria hit the four million refugee mark, and Thailand sent Uighur refugees back to China to face persecution. And we can’t forget the Palestinians, Yemeni, or Rohingya—people who face systematic oppression for their faith or ethnicities. And of course these actions aren’t confined to lands far away— Americans are being gunned down in the streets by those who were hired to protect them, and this affects each and every one of us because “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
What will it take for us to realize this mistreatment of our fellow humans is not a sustainable way to live, apart from being incredibly inhumane? Because of unjust wars, thousands of children are losing years of education and developing mental health problems that they are not getting treatment for.
So what can we do on a personal level?
Speak out when you see an injustice. Defend your fellow humans no matter their religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.
Educate yourselves and one another on the different cultures and struggles. Make it your personal life goal to expel ignorance from the world. Join action groups, pressure local politicians, take part in your elections, and don’t silence yourselves. Give to those who need the most. Atlanta has a large refugee population in Clarkston. It’s important to help them as much as we can, especially since they’re so close.
These are all seemingly small tasks but they make a world of a difference. This worldwide culture of killing to solve problems won’t change unless we make it a personal mission to stop it.
So take a moment to remember those that were senselessly killed this week twenty years ago and make a commitment to work towards a world where we can say “this kind of inhumanity doesn’t happen here.”
Iman Naim is currently in her senior year at Georgia State University, where she studies journalism and Arabic. She's had experience working at several Atlanta area magazines as well as on other projects. Iman has a special interest writing on gender equality and health issues. Follow her on Twitter @imansta_naim
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