Genocide through the Eyes of Women who passed through the Forests of Srebrenica
Fatima Ahmic lives with her husband in Voljavica, to be closer to the cemetery in Potocari, where her son is buried. In the conversation, she recalled the death march and the path she walked for 13 days in 1995. She left with her two sons – Mirsad and Sead – and her husband Hasib, who only managed to cross after 66 days. Her son Sead was also saved, but not Mirsad.
In Buljim, the column was ambushed, shooting began and Fatima was left alone. In the morning, she looked for her children among the dead, and then she saw a child whom she thought was her son Sead. She spent four days with the boy’s body until she noticed that the sneakers on the child did not belong to her son. After that, she says, she got up and continued on her way. Along the way, she comes across a wounded boy, whom she decides to take with her and take care of him.
For 13 days, Fatima did not eat or sleep, and she says that she did not fear for herself, but prayed that at least one of her sons would survive. After arriving in Kladanj, she could not remember anything.
”And then I slowly regain consciousness, I tell them: ‘Now I know everything. I know where I went, just let me go back, to go look for my children.’,” said Fatima, whose son Mirsad, as she found out, was killed in Vlasenica and later found in the Mrsici tomb, to which she never found the strength to go.
Fear for children is stronger than anything else
Naza Begic begins her story by remembering July 11th, 1995, when she left Srebrenica with her two sons – Senad and Hidan – through the forest to the territory under the control of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH). On the way through the forest, she ate only once, and there was a shortage of water due to the drought and heat.
”My older son says: ‘Give me a little to drink.’ After drinking that water, in five minutes he is not normal at all. And whoever drank from that water well, all the people “went mad”. (…) They poured water for us and then left it, you’re thirsty, so you take that bottle, that canister, drink it and there you are, you’re done – you go crazy with them,” describes Naza as the water they found was also contaminated with hallucinogenic military poisons.
Her son Hidan was calmed down and saved by two men, and he did not remember anything after being poisoned.
” ‘You, son’, she said, ‘you’ve gone crazy ’… He says ‘I did not,’ he adds ‘I was asleep’. (…). Even if he died then and surrendered, he wouldn’t have to know what he was doing,” says Naza, who was kept on her way to death by the thought of saving the children and taking them out of the forest, which she succeeded in doing.
Through the forest in the fifth month of pregnancy
In February, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) BiH and the Srebrenica Memorial Center opened the Memorial Room “Lives behind the Field of Death,” which contains 100 testimonies of surviving witnesses of the genocide. Among them is the story of Alma Avdic, who, in the fifth month of her pregnancy, set off through the woods together with her husband.
After the attack, the column broke up and she and her husband separated, and she stayed with her brother Hazim and several other men, with whom she was captured in the area between Konjevic Polje and Nova Kasaba. Then, through tears, she begged the soldiers to let her brother go.
”Begged and begged and everything, but… I was hit by one of those men, I was five months pregnant with my youngest son. He hit me in the stomach with the gunstock. And he forced us to go to a meadow, to sit near an apple tree, he kept us there, asked for money, asked for a lot of things. I cried and begged to let my brother go, and they didn’t want to, they didn’t even let me see him for the last time,” Alma said.
The search for the missing
War doctor Fatima Klempic-Dautbasic also recalled her journey through the forest, which she decided to take the day before the fall of Srebrenica. Physically too strenuous, the journey was beyond her strength. The column moved through the forest, avoiding the meadows, which made the already difficult path more difficult. Parts of the road were mined, and already in the first days’ people started hallucinating, she recalls.
She also remembers how people crawled past the trenches of Serbian soldiers and that they were so close that they could see their faces and hear what they were saying, and for her, the worst feeling was knowing that they were constantly being followed and that the soldiers always knew where the column was moving, she states.
”So we only later became aware that they were breaking into the column and that, well, they were actually shooting at all parts of the column, not only at the head of the column, not only at the end, but at all parts of the column, and that we… that because of this the column was broken and decimated already in those first days,”Fatima explains.
”Uncles, their sons, aunts, their sons, grandfathers… all were killed. The whole way we were going was like a hunting chase, and we were the animals that were being chased,” Klempic-Dautbasic concludes, Detektor writes.
(c) 2022 Sarajevo Times