Remembering Srebrenica

Remembering Srebrenica – 20 years later. 

(article by Haziq Ali, Alchemy Arts Blogger & Social Media Manager)

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide which took place in 1995, in Bosnia, (then part of the wider Yugoslavia nation) and is regarded as the single greatest atrocity committed in Europe since the Holocaust. The genocide, which took place in mid July of that year, saw over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males murdered in brutal acts of racial hatred by units of the Bosnian Serb Army (Army of Republika Srpska), as well as over 23,000 women and children forcibly deported and subjected to violent, damning methods of torture.

I was able to attend a Memorial Event/Iftar on Wednesday 8th July 2015 at the British Muslim Heritage Centre, in Manchester. As someone who did not know the extent of the horrors that unfolded during the Bosnian War, I was completely unprepared for the heartbreaking stories, speeches and videos presented at the event.

The event featured many respected guest speakers, including Imam Abid Khan from Cheadle Mosque who opened proceedings in the most fitting way, with a beautiful reading of Surat Al-Fatiha, Elinor Chohan from the Remembering Srebrenica charity, Sir Peter Fahey, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police who talked about the need for promoting racial and community cohesion and standing firm against the fascist idea of “them versus us”, Yusuf Dar from the Community Safety Forum and a very special lady, Ms Dudila Cellic who gave an eye witness account of the horrors that occurred in Srebrenica. Ms Cellic spoke of how she was forced to leave her family behind, her husband and elder sons staying behind to face their inevitable capture and death, how she herself hid away with her 3 younger children in the back of a truck belonging to a brave driver who drove her from Sarajevo to Zagreb, in Croatia where she found her way to a refugee camp.

Why did such an act of racial hatred occur only half a century after the end of World War II, one may ask? Why did the people of Europe not learn from mistakes made in the past?

The Massacre came amidst the breakup of former Yugoslavia, a huge nation made up of six Socialist Republics, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Serbia, now all countries in their own right. Bosnia’s independence came in April 1992. In Bosnia, Muslims represented the largest single population group, in a 1991 census Bosnia’s population of some 4 million was 44 percent Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim’s), 31 percent Serb and 17 percent Croatian. Elections held in late 1990 resulted in a coalition government split between parties representing the three ethnicities led by the Bosniak Alija Izetbegovic. As tension built in the country, the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his Serbian Democratic Party withdrew from the government and set up their own “Serbian National Assembly.”

Over the next several years, Bosnian Serb forces, with the backing of the Serb-dominated Yugoslav army, laid siege to Bosnia in their attempts to establish a “Greater Serbia” state in the region that Serbian separatists had long envisioned. In early May 1992, just days after Bosnia’s independence was recognized, Bosnian Serb forces launched their offensive with an attack on Bosnia’s capital, Sarajevo. They attacked towns in eastern Bosnia, including Zvornik, Foca, and Visegrad, forcibly expelling Bosniak civilians from the region, in a process referred to as “ethnic cleansing”.

Bosnian forces tried to defend the territory, however by the end of 1993, Bosnian Serb forces were in control of nearly three-quarters of the country. By the summer of 1995, just three towns in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde, remained under control of the Bosnian government. The U.N. had declared these towns as “safe havens” in 1993, to be disarmed and protected by international peacekeeping forces. On July 11, however, Bosnian Serb forces advanced on Srebrenica, overwhelming a battalion of Dutch soldiers stationed there. Serbian soldiers subsequently separated the innocent Bosniak civilians at Srebrenica, putting the women and girls on buses and sending them to Bosnian-held territory. Many of the women, some just young teenagers, were sexually assaulted and tortured by the depraved Serbian soldiers, while the unarmed and defenceless men and boys who remained behind were mercilessly gunned down on the spot or taken to mass killing sites (Death Camps), which bears a spine tingling resemblance to Hitler’s unforgiveable massacre of the Jews in World War II. The number of Bosniak’s murdered by the Serbs totals more than 8,000 innocent human lives, guilty of nothing but their name and ethnicity. The atrocity was stopped over the coming months when NATO finally stepped in and pressured the Serb forces into peace talks, with military force of their own. Sadly, the damage had already been done, the families of Bosnia torn apart by one of the most violent and hate filled acts of genocide ever committed. No guarantee of peace could ever bring back those sons, husbands, brothers and fathers who were massacred in a far-right fuelled hate campaign, nor could justice reverse the terrifying ordeals experienced by the daughters, wives, sisters and mothers of Srebrenica.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his government will spend an extra £1.2m on the commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre to ensure “the events of that day are not forgotten”. When speaking about the tragedy, he is quoted as saying “The 20th anniversary is a moment to remember the many thousands who lost their lives, to remember their families and the missing and the fact that for so many – including the mothers of Srebrenica – the agony continues every day, undimmed by the passing of time. We must reaffirm our determination to act to prevent genocide in the future.”

To conclude, I would like to say that despite my dismay at the stories and facts I heard that on the evening of the 8th July, I am pleased I took the time to head down to the Muslim Heritage Centre for the Remembering Srebrenica event, I found it to be very informative and eye opening, as well as serving as a solid reminder that racial hatred campaigns are something that cannot just be brushed under the carpet, branded as “far-right lunacy”, but something that must be addressed and stood up to, before, (and I shudder at the very thought of this) something like Srebrenica is allowed to happen again. We must make it unacceptable for derogatory words against different ethnicity’s and religions to be uttered, even in a joking manner. Making a “joke” about someone’s skin colour, or their country of origin is the first stage of far-right extremism/fascism, and it is at that level that racism needs to be tackled and stamped out. We must challenge hate, in all its forms and promote cultural diversity, for it is one of life’s greatest features. We must stand up for those weaker than us, facing oppression. We must support those who have been victims of war/genocide. We must look after one and other, regardless of whether or not they look like us. After all, the word “us” is universal. It cannot and should not be used to separate society off into groups. We were all made with the same key component; a heartbeat. We are all human.

My Time On 'The Other Side'

Today's blog is a special blog, written by Alchemy Arts' very own Jonathon Watt. It is an encapsulating and well written piece proving that REAL community cohesion exists in our society, also disproving some of the negative misconceptions about the Muslim community that are published in today's Media. A MUST READ!

 

My Time On 'The Other Side', by Jonathon Watt:

Recently I was fortunate enough to attend the Asian Business Awards with Alchemy Arts.  As a White male, I was very much within a minority at the event. 
I was even asked jokingly by an Asian colleague how it felt to be a minority.

At the time the question was asked, I replied instantly while laughing 'I feel fine,' however as the night went on, I found myself reflecting on the question and actually thinking about it 
deeper. Here I was sat amongst predominately Asian Men and Women, and although I was greeted warmly and made to feel very welcome by everyone, I found myself, subconsciously then consciously searching for commonality.  This got me thinking how it must be for Minority Communities around the world. How they must think and feel constantly amongst dominant groups. There was a definite shift in my thought process that night.  For me, it became so much more than attending an awards ceremony,  I felt it facilitated self awareness.

I also attended a Mosque with Alchemy. This time I was the only white person there.  Even though I am a non Muslim, I was welcomed into the mosque with open arms. The Iman of the mosque actually embraced me and welcomed me in.   
This got me thinking would a Muslim be welcome in a Christian or Catholic Church as I was welcomed in a Mosque? Does radicalisation happen in a mosque? I found the mosque to be a place of peace, love and serenity and it was powerful for me to have been accepted.

 

I would like to end this post with a quote that I find really inspiring - "We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging." 

That is a quote by the American physician, comedian, social activist, clown, and author Hunter Doherty "Patch" Adams. I like it so much as it really does ring true, the evidence of re-creating community through a sense of belonging is so clear in this blog post. That is what We (Alchemy) are aiming to achieve, a community where all feel valued and respected.

Ramadan update. Day 10

We're officially a third of the way into Ramadan now, so I thought I'd send out a little update on how my month has been going so far. When people think of Ramadan and what we do during this beautiful month, their only thoughts are of our abstaining from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. What many people don't understand is that Ramadan is so much more than that for Muslims and has a much larger impact on our lives than simply going hungry for the duration of the day! 

For me, this month is not just about fasting. It's about trying to set the tone for the rest of my year, getting into the routine of always making time for my prayers, being more patient, using my brain to it's fullest capacity and giving generously. These are some of the qualities that make up a good Muslim, and indeed a good human being. For myself, Ramadan serves as a reminder that giving to those less fortunate than yourself, praying five times a day and striving hard to make a positive impact in the world are the core values that everyone should aim to possess all year round. 

This year, and indeed the next few years, Ramadan has and will occur during the summer months, when the sun is out the longest and the nights are shortest. For some people, this may produce some grumbling stomach's, but I'd urge all Muslim's to not look at it as being a longer fast, but simply more hours of the day to better yourself and the world around you. 

 

I'd like this post with a short poem by Rumi, one of the most inspirational writer's the world has ever known:

"There’s a hidden sweetness
in the stomach’s emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less.
If the sound box is stuffed
full of anything, no music.

If the brain and the belly
are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song
comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and a new
energy makes you run up the
steps in front of you.

Be emptier and cry like
reed instruments cry.
Emptier, write secrets with
the reed pen.

When you’re full of food and drink,
Satan sits where your
spirit should, an ugly metal
statue in place of the Kaaba.

When you fast, good habits gather
like friends who want to help.

Fasting is Solomon’s ring.
Don’t give it to some illusion
and lose your power.

But even if you’ve lost all
will and control, they come
back when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out
of the ground, pennants
flying above them.

A table descends to your
tent, Jesus’s table.
Expect to see it, when you
fast, this table spread with
other food better than the
broth of cabbages."

What happens to our bodies during fasting?

Detoxification Stage 1 (Day 1 To Day 2)

On the first day of fasting, the blood sugar level drops. The heart slows and blood pressure is reduced. Glycogen is pulled from the muscle causing some weakness. The first wave of cleansing is usually the worst. Headaches, dizzinessnausea, bad breath, and a heavily coated tongue are signs of the first stage of cleansing. Hunger can be the most intense in this period.

Detoxification Stage 2 (Day 3 To Day 7)

Fats, composed of transformed fatty acids, are broken down to release glycerol from the gliceride molecules and are converted to glucose. The skin may become oily as rancid oils are purged from the body. People with problem-free skin may have a few days of pimples or even a boil. The body embraces the fast and the digestive system is able to take a much-needed rest, focusing all of its energies on cleansing and healing. White blood cell and immune system activity increases. You may feel pain in your lungs. The cleansing organs and the lungs are in the process of being repaired. The breath is still foul and the tongue coated. Within the intestine, the colon is being repaired and impacted feces on the intestinal wall start to loosen.

Detoxification Stage 3 (Day 8 to Day 15)

You will experience enhanced energy, clear-mindedness and feel better. On the downside, old injuries may become irritated and painful. This is a result of the body's increased ability to heal during fasting. If you had broken your arm 10 years before, there is scar tissue around the break. At the time of the break, the body's ability to heal was directly related to lifestyle. If you lived on a junk-food diet, the body's natural healing ability was compromised. During fasting, the body's healing process is at optimum efficiency. As the body scours for dead or damaged tissue, the lymphocytes enter the older, damaged tissue secreting substances to dissolve the damaged cells. These substances irritate the nerves in the surrounding region and cause a reoccurrence of aches from previously injured areas that may have disappeared years earlier. The pain is good as the body is completing the healing process. The muscles may become tight and sore due to toxin irritation. The legs can be the worst affected, as toxins accumulate in the legs. Cankers are common in this stage due to the excessive bacteria in the mouth. Daily gargling with salt and water will prevent or heal cankers.

Detoxification Stage 4 (Day 16 to Day 30)

The body is completely adapted to the fasting process. There is more energy and clarity of mind. Cleansing periods can be short with many days of feeling good in between. There are days when the tongue is pink and the breath is fresh. The healing work of the organs is being completed. After the detoxification mechanisms have removed the causative agent or render it harmless, the body works at maximum capacity in tissue proliferation to replace damaged tissue. After day 20, the mind is affected. Heightened clarity and emotional balance are felt at this time. Memory and concentration improve.

A New Beginning

For those of you who visit our website regularly, you may have noticed a new heading under our logo titled 'Blog'. That's right, from now on Alchemy Arts will be producing regular blog material for you guys to read through, so you're updated on all the wonderful things we are involved in!

I like to think of this Blog as a new chapter of Alchemy Arts' story, 'A new beginning' if you will. What better time to get the ball rolling, than the glorious month of Ramadan? 

Throughout this month, I will be updating this blog with daily Ramadan inspired posts, for you all to read through whenever you get a chance. 

 

Who am I? I'm the newest member of Alchemy Arts' lovely team, in charge of this blog and our social media accounts and on behalf of myself and Alchemy, I would like to wish you all a joy filled month, regardless of your background/religion. 

Ramadan Mubarak.