Scotland’s national commemoration for Srebrenica Memorial Day on Friday featured a survivor of sexual violence from Bosnia testifying about her experiences.
Last week marked the 22nd anniversary of the genocide in which thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica were separated to be murdered on account of their Islamic faith while women were tortured and raped. Bakira Hasečić was subjected to sexual violence along with her daughter during the brutal campaign of ‘ethnic cleansing’ starting in 1992 and founded the Women Victims of War Association to seek justice for all those subjected to such crimes. She will talk about women’s experiences and how the rapes in Bosnia were orchestrated as part of the genocide.
Mrs Hasečić says: “They tell us that rape happens in every war, that all armies commit rape, but this aggression, this genocide that happened, the rape of Bosnian Muslim women cannot be compared with any act of war or aggression. It had to be one big project that would include planners, commanders and executors. Simply, rape was used as a weapon for ethnic cleansing and genocide.”
In Glasgow, guests attended the National Srebrenica Commemoration at St Mungo’s Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow. Kezia Dugdale MSP, the Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, spoke about the lessons to be learned from Srebrenica for our society.
Ms Dugdale visited Srebrenica with the charity recently and said:
“My visit to Srebrenica was utterly harrowing. I witnessed first-hand the remnants of the genocide from mass graves to bullet holes in almost every post war building and indeed the degree to which hatred and intolerance continues to damage European countries to this day.
“We are proud to be welcoming Bakira Hasečić to Scotland to break the silence on the important issue of sexual violence, which is so often ignored. By ensuring that these stories are heard, we can begin to tackle the issues that lead to both peacetime and wartime violence against women and girls, especially those of stigma and shame preventing the reporting of these crimes.”
The Very Rev Dr Lorna Hood OBE, Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Scotland, explained why the charity has chosen to focus on women’s stories this year:
“When we dehumanise, and divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’, it creates the conditions for hate crimes to occur. Discrimination against people based on their sex, race, religion, sexuality or nationality is then much more likely to occur, as are hate crimes. Today, we will honour the courage of Bakira and others affected by genocidal rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina by raising our voices and speaking out to challenge misogyny, racism, and all forms of hatred in Scotland.”