Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia

In the Bosnian silver-mining town of Srebrenica in July 1995, one of the most notorious modern acts of gendercide took place. While the international community and U.N. peacekeepers looked on, Serb forces separated civilian men from women and killed thousands of men en masse, or hunted them down in the forests.

The events at Srebrenica mark the climax of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the most vicious and genocidal battlefront in the Balkans conflict. The conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina began in 1992 and featured largescale genocidal and gendercidal atrocities from the first. These are dealt with in a separate Bosnia case study. One of the largest massacres of the early part of the war took place at a gymnasium in the village of Bratunac in April 1992, when an estimated 350 Bosnian Muslim men were tortured to death and massacred by Serb paramilitaries and special police. Bratunac lay just outside Srebrenica, and would again serve as a killing ground when the city fell to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995.

In spring 1992, fighting erupted between Bosnia and Serbia, both formerly parts of Yugoslavia. 'Ethnic Cleansing' by Serb military and paramilitaries in eastern Bosnia forced thousands of Muslims into three main enclaves: Zepa, Gorazde and Srebrenica. On April 16 1993, the UN declared Srebrenica and its surroundings a safe area to be left free of any armed attacks.

On or about July 6 1995, units of Drina Corps of the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) shelled and attacked the Dutch manned UN observation post in the safe area. The attacks continued until July 11 when Serb forces entered Srebrenica.

Several thousand women, children and some, mainly elderly, men gathered at the UN compound at Potocari where they sought the protection of Dutch peacekeepers.

On July 13 all the civilians were taken from this area an buses and trucks by the VRS. A second group of approximately 15,000 Bosnian Muslim men with some women and children fled west, through the woods towards the town of Tuzla. About one third of this med were armed.

On July 18, VRS forces had systemetically executed thousands of these two groups. The remainder were deported from the area westwards into Muslim-held territory. The Muslim popoulation of Srebrenica had been murdered.

The Red Cross lists 7,079 dead and missing at Srebrenica. Other estimates range as high as 8,000 or 10,000. David Rohde notes that the massacre "accounts for an astonishing percentage of the number of missing" from the brutal Balkans conflict as a whole. "Of the 18,406 Muslims, Serbs and Croats reported still missing ... as of January 1997, 7,079 are people [men] who disappeared after the fall of Srebrenica. In other words, approximately 38 percent of the war's missing are from Srebrenica." By any standard, it was one of the worst and most concentrated acts of gendercide in the post-World War II era -- and the worst massacre of any kind in Europe for fifty years.


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