foto 8

Foto 8 exhibition, London August 29th- September 15th 2012 

 Preparing for burial. Men help unload caskets to a holding area inside the Memorial Center.

In July 1995, just months before the Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian War, the safe haven enclave of Srebrenica fell to Ratko Mladic and his forces. In the ensuing terror and confusion between 12,000 and 13,000 men and boys tried to escape over of mountainous terrain to free territory near Tuzla. Those unable to walk the 120KM to safety followed their families to the battery factory at Potocari, seeking refuge at the garrison headquarters of the Dutch Battalion assigned by the UN to protect the enclave. As Srebrenica fell, Muslim men and boys as young as 12 were rounded up and held at various locations before being executed. The women and younger children were deported by bus to the UN Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) campsites at Tuzla Airport. Over a period of a few days, around 8,000 Muslim males (and some women) were slaughtered in the largest genocide since WWII and Srebrenica lost its biggest ethnic group of inhabitants.

Rebuilding since the war has been a slow process. Some Muslim families have returned, many choose to stay away. Ethnic tensions in the community are close to the surface and there is an uneasy truce between Serb and Bosniak (Muslim) residents. The economic and political landscape is uncertain. Educating the young children in the municipality is a difficult task. The municipality is large and many of the rural communities are too remote for children to bus into the main primary school at Srebrenica. As a result, there is one large campus in the town and 15 smaller satellite schools in outlying areas. These rely heavily on international donations to fund equipment and other resources needed for education.

The vicious fight for land during the war has become a protracted struggle for justice, for remembrance, and for the future of the next generation growing up and entering work in Srebrenica. It is a long road to travel.

Working on a collaborative project with writer and researcher Clare Cook, Kristian Skeie captures images that help to portray the mosaic of life after genocide. This exhibition (entitled the long road) features some of Kristian’s photographic works that highlight the struggle for justice of the women of Srebrenica, the annual peace walk, a symbolic act of remembrance and dedication, and the new generation, born after the war, embarking on their own journey, which begins in an un-reconciled community in which peace and prosperity seem a long way off. 

More than just names, generations of males were killed in 
the genocide of 1995.

En route to Mars Mira. The national army help with logistics and setting up camps.

A local Red Cross official makes final preparations for the 
beginning of the walk. The photographs on display remind 
participants of the conditions in which people fled 
Srebrenica in 1995.

Packing up before another day of walking.

Water stops are crucial in the summer heat. 

The end of the first day of walking. A distance of 44km over rough terrain has been covered.

Mars Mira attracts participants of all ages.

Some participants prefer to use the military tents provided for 
overnight shelter. Other walkers bring tents of their own.

Evening prayers.

Evening prayers.

War injuries make kneeling difficult.

Walking the route which takes in many remote villages along the way.

Local women prepare tea for walkers as they pass through their villages.

“It’s a sign of my support, it’s the least I can do.” Muhamed Smailhozic, a Bosnian forester joins Mars Mira each year.

The evening before the walk begins. Officials estimate that 7,000 walkers have gathered in the village of Nezuk. Local teenagers turn out to view the spectacle.

A new generation of young men join Mars Mira.

Each night water tanks are brought to the remote campsites.

The evenings of Mars Mira are filled with survivors’ stories and eyewitness accounts of the genocide.

View of the mosque minarets and Orthodox church in Srebrenica. Both mosques were obliterated during the war and rebuiltafterwards.

Dutch battalion soldier George Pfrommer in Srebrenica for the first time since the war. At the perimeter of the factory where UN peacekeepers were stationed, he describes how local people used the stream to generate electricity to power one light bulb. 

Headmaster Marinko Backovic sits proudly in the newly refurbished 
science suite of the main school in Srebrenica. Improvements were 
made possible through generous donations by Swiss and German 
organizations. In contrast, the satellite schools all remain 

A Swiss student, on a return trip after raising money for the main school campus, surveys another area of need in the building.

The remains of the dead to be buried at Potocari are brought by UN truck to the Memorial Center. They are blessed by Imam Damir Pestalic and other clerics the evening before burial.

Headmaster Marinko Backovic is enormously grateful for the outside financial help that has boosted IT and science learning on the main campus. 

Imam Damir Pestalic. His children attend the school in Srebrenica where discussion of the recent past is avoided. School policy is to ignore the genocide. “The problem is political, people were pushed into returning after the war before important things like education were sorted out.”

The playground of Potocari school. Adjacent buildings still retain the pockmarks of gunfire. 

The 73 Muslim children at the Potocari satellite campus learn in impoverished conditions.

A large painting hanging in a corridor of the main school campus depicts Srebrenica in the 1980’s. Although painted by a local Muslim artist before hostilities began in 1992, the town’s mosques are omitted from the scene.

A former sleeping container used by the Dutch contingent during their deployment lies abandoned in on the outskirts of Srebrenica. Containers like this can be found dispersed throughout the town.

Dogs scavenge for food through household waste bins in Srebrenica. Domestic animals have adapted to the wild. There is a thriving community of stray, owner-less animals in the town.

The mortuary at the Podrine Identification Centre, Tuzla. Trays hold 
sacks of earth-sodden skeletal remains recovered by forensic 
pathologists from excavated burial sites. Paper bags of personal 
possessions and remains of clothing recovered from the sites are 
also stored. 
A forensic scientist at the Podrigne Identification Centre in Tuzla explains the long process of DNA identification. So far the remains of about 6,000 individuals have been identified.

Hajra Catic, one of the leaders of the Women of Srebrenica organization, at work in the organization’s HQ in Tuzla. The office walls are covered with photographs of the men that went missing from Srebrenica in July 1995.

Noura Begic, a leader of the Women of Srebrenica Association, campaigns tirelessly for justice on behalf of the mothers and wives who lost loved ones in the genocide.

Hasan Hasanovic, curator of the memorial centre Potocari, in the warehouse that sheltered over 5,000 people in the days before Srebrenica fell. He fled in July 1995; his father and twin brother were captured and killed. “Whatever is usually considered sensational or frightening in the world has become normal here.”

Family members carry the caskets of the dead to their final resting place in Potocari.

The burial ceremony at Potocari is held each year on 11th July.

520 caskets ready for morning burial. Loved ones say their goodbyes. 

Advija Krdzic: “The day they called to say they had identified his remains was the day I felt he was gone.”

You can read the full interview with Advija on the "talking Bosnia" blog that I host with Clare Cook. She explains how her father went missing while walking from Srebrenica and Tuzla and how she was preparing for his burial on July 11th 2012 at the Potocari memorial cemetery.

This exhibition was co-sponsored by Webster University Geneva
#rwanda  #genocide #neveragain #africa #photography #nikon #d810 #documentary #photojournalism #reportage #d4 #kigali #bosnia #srebrenica #webster #assignment #nikonpro #eight #fotoeight 

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