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Genocide:A Day To Stand Against Denial

In Dream on June 29, 2012 at 8:04 am

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

Genocide comes in many forms. From the calculated attacks on Bosnian Muslims and Croats two decades ago, to calls for rounding up gays and lesbians today, it’s important to remember the past to prevent it from repeating. Many in the LGBT community, which this blog focuses on everyday, have witnessed an increasing level of hate speech and attacks on our community that seems to be escalating. An illustrative example, was a southern minister, while preaching to his congregation, called for rounding up and detaining gays and lesbians in a pen and suggested dropping food into the pen to feed them– is such an overt act of hatred–there are no words to describe. But this is how genocide begins, as societies break down and politicians refuse to protect or worse yet, become perpetrators of violence and hatred themselves. This is why we must stand in solidarity with others, as they come under attack. As a member of humanity, we must extend ourselves, and by doing so, we lift all of humanity up with dignity and decency. Twenty years ago yesterday, the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor, a town in north western Bosnia and Herzegovina, issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they were to leave their houses. This was the first day of a campaign of extermination that resulted in executions, concentration camps, mass rapes and the ultimate removal of more than 94 percent of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from the territory of the Prijedor municipality.

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

This was the first time since the 1939 Nazi decree for Polish Jews to wear white armbands with the blue Star of David that members of an ethnic or religious group were to be marked for extermination in this way. Prijedor became a notorious location for some of the most brutal acts of torture, enslavement and rape that occurred during the Bosnian War. The crimes of the Omarska concentration camp  in Prijedor are well known to the world–first reported by then Newsday European correspondent Roy Gutman, who earned the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his stories on the Bosnian war.  The prisoners were beaten, starved, tortured and many died in captivity, while a rape camp of women was included within Omarska. Jadranka Cigelj and Nusreta Sivac, survivors of the rape camp went on to document hundreds of rapes of women, submitted the witness statements to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague that led to prosecutions of rape as a war crime.  It is believed that 20,000 to 50,ooo women were raped during the Bosnian war. In honoring the loss of that terrible day of reckoning, Refik Hodzic, the communications director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, based in New York City, organized a day to Stop Genocide Denial after several friends from Prijedor, Hodzic’s home town, came together to organize a memorial service to those who died at Omarska during the war. But they had one little problem–they had to speak to Mayor Marko Pavic, a Bosnian Serb and a notorious genocide denier who said in 2009 that “Muslims are lying and accusing without proof” for crimes in Omarska and that those who “smear Prijedor’s name should not be looking for employment here.”

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

In honoring the loss of that terrible day of reckoning, Refik Hodzic, the communications director at the International Center for Transitional Justice, based in New York City, organized a day to Stop Genocide Denial after several friends from Prijedor, Hodzic’s home town, came together to organize a memorial service to those who died at Omarska during the war. But they had one little problem–they had to speak to Mayor Marko Pavic, a Bosnian Serb and a notorious genocide denier who said in 2009 that “Muslims are lying and accusing without proof” for crimes in Omarska and that those who “smear Prijedor’s name should not be looking for employment here.” Despite their well founded fears, they approached Pavic to discuss the possibility of holding a commemoration on the 20th anniversary of Prijedor’s ethnic cleansing. Not surprisingly, Pavic told them  that as long as he was mayor, under no uncertain terms would he permit a “genocide” commemoration to those who died. Hodzic told me that after the meeting with Pavic, his friends became very, very frightened and given the history of such terrible events there, I could completely understand why people would be afraid. So what to do? Hodzic called up his friend Azra Selak, a resident of Denver, Colorado and a beautifully talented Sevdah singer, also from Prijedor, along with his brother Emir Hodzic (who designed the website).  Together, they strategized and came up with the plan of a global campaign, declaring May 31st a “World Wide White Armband Day” to protect their family and friends who remain in Prijedor and bring attention to the continued lies about what happened during the war. With the assistance of the Youth Initiatives in Human Rights organization in Sarajevo, and other civil society leaders throughout the region, like the Belgrade based Women in Black, the Hozic brothers and Azra, launched the campaign on multiple platforms using the web, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. People were urged to  join thee campaign by wearing a white arm band or hanging a white sheet in their window.

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

Azra composed a song of tribute to her Prijedor home–a traditional Bosnian song, delivered it the style known as “Sevdah,” which is considered an expression of the soul. Azra says, ”Sevdah is what carries us, people from the former Yugoslavia–immigrants, refugees, former soldiers of many armies, former prisoners of war, prisoners of our memories…there is a sense of not belonging and of permanent and unspeakable loss…”  This song and its moving music will take you to a different place of existence.

Azra Sings 2012 – “Koliko je Prijedor Polje” – YouTube

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted | The New Civil Rights Movement

History is replete with terrible pogroms, the casting out of “others.” We are all too familiar with hatred and being cast out from our families of origin, fired from our jobs, refused housing–this happens to many of us in the LGBT community. So as a human being, I can not help but be moved by the fate of the Bosnian Muslims and Croats and in some cases Serbs too, but  join in solidarity with them they take up this courageous fight to shed light on the genocide deniers in their communities, beginning in Prijedor. These are the children of war, who may remember the war or not, but know why they no longer live in Bosnia–or for those who remain, must daily confront  the consequences of war. But most importantly, these young people are the future of hope, their actions of taking a stand to stop genocide denial creates an opening  that embraces possibility and  the return of optimism by revealing the ugly truth. May it be so. It is important that we stand with them because as Martin Niemoller once wrote:

“First they came for the communists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Genocide: A Day To Stand Against Denial, And Be Aware Of How Its Seeds Are Planted  is written  by TANYA DOMI on JUNE 1, 2012 in ANALYSIS,HATE CRIMES,HUMAN RIGHTS,TANYA DOMI

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