“We are not facing our past, we are living in the past”

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By Jessica Benham

Driving through rural Bosnian towns and villages, there are pieces of history everywhere. There are still houses and public buildings in ruins—snapshots in time of the war in Bosnia. Although the evidence is clear, no one is willing to publicly acknowledge the crimes committed during the war and the genocide. There seems to be no attempt by the government to educate younger generations and appropriately memorialize the war.

WP_20170803_10_38_59_RichAfter visiting many towns in and around Prijedor, I noticed that there was a lack of memorials for the people murdered during the war—particularly memorials for Bosniak Muslims murdered in concentration camps in Omarska and Trnopolje. We visited a memorial for the innocent citizens of Kozarac killed in 1992, which included detainees from the camp, but that was just one memorial. During our time in Prijedor, we visited many mass graves and concentration camps that did not even have a plaque to acknowledge the events that occurred there.

We attended a commemorative ceremony at Omarska camp, a functioning mine that is only open to the public one day a year. Apart from this annual commemoration that is held by local communities, there is no way for people to know what happened there the other 364 days of the year as there are no attempts to educate people at the site.

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After attending the commemoration event at Omarska camp, Kemal Pervanic, said “We are not facing our past, we are living in the past.” Arguably, it should be the responsibility of the government to create dialogue with survivors of the camps and families of those murdered to create some kind of physical memorial. This should be the first step in the commemoration process with additional education and peacebuilding in the region. A memorial and learning center would mean a lot to the families of the people murdered in the camp and the survivors of this camp. It is also vital to continue the annual commemorative ceremony so that people’s stories can live on and be a part of the collective memory of the nation.

 

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