Why Srebrenica matters
On July 6, 1995, a group of Chetniks (the common name for bloodthirsty Serbian fascists) launched an offensive against Srebrenica, a city they had held under siege for a long time. Their commander was Ratko Mladic - a war criminal who is on trial at The Hague now, and who I hope will rot not just in prison but also in Hell. His orders were to “cleanse” the whole city of Bosniaks, as a part of a genocide campaign carried out against the Muslim people of Bosnia and Herzegovina since April 1992.
Soon, the invasion indeed proved to be mass-murder: More than 8,000 Bosniaks were slaughtered in cold blood. Most victims were men and boys, but they also included the elderly, children, and even babies. According to the U.N. Secretary General at the time, this was “the worst crime on European soil since World War II.”
The world remembered Srebrenica again this week, after 17 years, as the remains of 520 newly identified victims were buried with a commemoration ceremony in the nearby town of Potocari. For the families and the relatives of the victims, however, the Srebrenica Genocide has of course been remembered every single day with grief, sorrow and pain.
But not just them, I should say. For millions of others who feel solidarity with Bosnian Muslims, including my humble self, Srebrenica was a watershed event. I was at college during those years and, like many people in Turkey, I was shocked to see Serbian fascists slaughtering innocents who they called “Turks.” Even more shockingly, the same monsters were claiming to do all this to take revenge for the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, in which the Ottoman army defeated Serbian forces.
In other words, history, despite all the modern efforts to disregard it, was back. The country that we knew as “Yugoslavia” was in ruins, and the old identities that we seemed to have forgotten were unveiled. Our very brethren, the Muslims of the Balkans, were being persecuted, tortured and murdered. Moreover, the Europeans, who kept lecturing us about “human rights,” were doing nothing to stop all this. Alas, some were even helping the Serbs in implicit ways.
One of the most notorious scenes of this European hypocrisy was the way Dutch “peacekeeping forces” in Srebrenica, whose job was to protect the city as a “safe haven,” simply let the Serbs commit their slaughter. The photo showing the Dutch commander in the city, a man named Tom Karremans, drinking champagne with Ratko Mladic just a short while before the massacre was worth a million words.
Those who wonder about the “neo-Ottoman” feelings in today’s Turkey and often complain about them should understand that this is how it all began. With the genocide in Bosnia, many Turks realized that even if they had done their best to forget the Ottoman Empire - as their Republican Kemalist ideology had advised them - the world, including their enemies, would not forget. They also realized that “the international community” had double standards, especially when it came to fellow Muslims.
In line with this neo-Ottoman spirit, here is my personal note to the Serbian people: Of course, you are not all guilty for the genocide against the Bosniaks, and I sympathize with those among you who genuinely feel sorry about it. But I would appreciate if you tell your Chetniks that they should behave in the future, and never, ever, dream of another Srebrenica. They, at least, should keep in mind that we Turks are really back in history, and we will never, ever, forsake the Bosnians.