Srebrenica Memorial Day 2018: Ilford 23-year-old shares lessons from visit to site of the massacre
PUBLISHED: 11:30 19 July 2018 | UPDATED: 14:46 13 August 2018
“I learned how an integrated society disintegrated pretty much over night.”
This was one of the key lessons 23-year-old Riz Nasrullah learned after visiting the Bosnian town of Srebrenica where more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were brutally killed in 1995.
During his 2015 trip, run by advocacy charity Remembering Srebrenica, the Ilford resident visited burial sites, spoke to genocide survivors and mothers who had lost countless family members.
The Recorder spoke to Riz - on Srebrenica Memorial Day - to find out what lessons Redbridge residents can take from this episode of history.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina was very much like Redbridge - different people from different backgrounds living side by side,” he said.
“But dark forces took hold and people turned against each other.”
The town of Srebrenica was home to more than 60,000 Bosniak Muslims and had been declared a “safe-area” by the UN in spring 1993, under the protection of peacekeeping troops.
But on July 11, Bosnian Serb forces launched a major attack and killed 8,372 Bosniak men and boys, burying them in mass graves.
More than 20,000 people were also displaced in the worst episode of mass murder in Europe since World War II.
Talking about what left the deepest impact on him, Riz Nasrullah spoke of the courage of mothers who survived the atrocities.
“One of them lost 43 members of her family,” he said. “When someone dies you can usually go through that mourning process.
“But they can’t do that because they do not even know where the bodies are buried.”
“To see them carry on through all of that is really admirable.”
During his trip, Riz learned of the work of the International Commission on Missing Person (ICMP), who identify people who have gone missing in armed conflict.
“We need to be wary of about hatred and intolerance because if we don’t it can lead to more serious consequences,” Riz said.
“Learning about our neighbours and others from a different background to us can demystify those thoughts.”
Riz gives talks about his trip and what we must learn from this stain on human history.