MUSTAFA AKYOL > Why Srebrenica matters

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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.


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Chris Green

7/16/2012 12:11:16 PM

Hatidza Zepic: Thank you for your words. I, in fact, am a Church of England attendee on a weekly basis, however I am more than acquainted with the 'truth' in terms of religiously inclined so-called 'cleansing' and the examples I highlighted previously are both compelling and undeniable, but even in the event of such a denial that does not alter the facts.

Hatidza Zepic

7/15/2012 7:34:12 PM

Chris G. is right on. Politics is determined by religion in Europe. Majority of Europe is Christian. Who suffers, and who is not-welcomed? Everyone knows the answer, and us Bosnians felt it on our own skin.

Hasan Kutlay

7/15/2012 1:34:04 PM

I'm glad and proud that we from history till now have been able to save ourselves from oppression and also have been able to save the turkish cypriots on our own. I know a lot of arabs and believe me colonialism in the past and palestine today has a huuuge traumatic impact on their selfimage and consciouss , their proudness and dignity is taken away.

ilker avni

7/15/2012 8:01:01 AM

Turkish Cypriots suffered ethenic cleansing and mass slaughter by the Greeks since Cyprus inderpendance in 1960,in 1974 the cousins of the Serbs the Greeks began their orgy of slaughter and ethnic cleansing of the island of muslims Turks,while the British and the rest of the world looked on and did nothing,the rest of the World being Christen didnt care since it was muslims being cleansed.and killed.

Ed Diaz

7/15/2012 12:12:06 AM

To Jameel Mohammed: Check the Battle of Lepanto and tell me again that Turkish Emperors ruled all over Europe, do you mean only a part of Europe? Let me bring sth to your memory... Byzantine Empire, Europeans reigned over your land before if you want we can just go back to Ancient Greece, dont forget the part of the History you dont like.Thanks.

onder mehmetoglu

7/14/2012 8:51:12 PM

This is a great example of selective cognition of a subjective person. Muslims are sensitive to atrocities committed against them as the writer does. Mr Akyol by being silent to other atrocities done to non Muslims by the Muslims discredited himself as a unprincipled opinion holder. As far as I am concerned, his opinion is not worth to consume for me!

The Lion

7/14/2012 6:12:41 PM

ismail demir, yes, that should be mentioned too! The Greeks sent paramilitary to Srebrenica to help Mladic. Mladic raised a Greek flag. Mladic, Karadzic, Milosevic, and other war criminals still have money in Greek bank accounts. The Fener patriarche has not condemned the actions of Mladic, Karadzic, Milosevic, etc.

The Lion

7/14/2012 5:57:59 PM

Hasan Kutlay, to say the least! They were urging the Serbs to quickly finish murdering all of the Muslim Bosniaks. The French need to commit mass suicide. They are a blight on this planet.

The Lion

7/14/2012 5:56:43 PM

Ed Diaz, if it doesn't happen again, it is in spite of you. I hope you look back with fond memories of the images of Turkish fighters bombing your pal Milosevic. Do you forget the epic owning christians received in the 1920's: Brits, Frenchies, Italians, Armenians, Greeks, Kurds all together against the Turks and they all LOST! Never forget that.

Chris Green

7/14/2012 5:17:08 PM

Dogan Kemal Ileri as always makes a very compelling point and a perfect comparison; but the Srebrinica Massacre was the latest in a long line of Orthodox church inspired plots to rid eastern Europe of all vestiges of the former Ottoman Empire. Crete and Cyprus are the most obvious examples of previous attempts. It is high time that those with such a firm grip on one of the many handles on the Crucible of Evil had those very fingers burnt!
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