Drive to ensure that a Bosniak [Muslim] wins the race to become mayor of Srebrenica in October is gathering support from most of the main Bosniak parties.
Bosniaks [Muslims] in Bosnia have launched a campaign to lure voters to register in Srebrenica in order to stop an ethnic Serb from becoming mayor of the iconic town in the October local elections.
The “I will vote for Srebenica” campaign intends to draw Bosniaks back to the town, which now has a Serbian majority, to register there and vote for a Bosniak candidate.
Supporters of the campaign say that if Srebrenica gets a Serbian mayor, he is likely to deny the 1995 mass slaughter by Serbs of Bosniaks in the town, which has been qualified as an act of genocide.
Emir Suljagic, leader of the campaign, and Camil Durakovic, independent Bosniak mayoral candidate, met Fahrudin Radoncic, President of the Alliance for the Better Future of Bosnia, SBB, on June 13 in Sarajevo to discuss the possibilities of a Bosniak winning the race.
“We are not talking about a Bosniak mayor here, we are talking about a mayor who does not deny genocide,” Suljagic said after the meeting on Wednesday.
Suljagic said there is no legal obstacle preventing anyone from registering and voting in Srebrenica, but there would be obstructions at local level in terms of demands for documentation.
Suljagic explained that activists had asked the Srebrenica police to explain the exact documents required, but he advised them to look at the website of the Interior Ministry of the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska.
“Either the officials or someone in Banja Luka [the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry] is lying or there is a written or verbal order to obstruct registration in Srebrenica,” Suljagic asserted.
In some cases a pre-war electricity bill was being required, or documents proving possession of a house or a contract for renting.
Despite all of this, Suljagic said numbers of people had already registered as returnees to Srebrenica while others had said they intended to do so.
The SBB leader, Fahrudin Radoncic, said an agreement between the leaders of Bosnia's four biggest Bosniak parties on Srebrenica was being implemented.
“We see Srebrenica as a place where it is clear that, regardless of any other coalitions elsewhere, Bosniak parties can work together,” Radoncic said.
Radoncic was referring to an agreement between his party, the Social Democrats, SDP, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, and the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, to support one candidate for the local elections in Srebrenica.
Camil Durakovic, the independent Bosniak candidate for Srebrenica, said on Wednesday that the campaign was aimed primarily at people who were born in Srebrenica or who had survived the 1995 massacre, but others could join in for their own moral reasons.
Suljagic also spoke of the support of leaders of other Bosniak parties, saying he had met Sulejman Tihic, the leader of the SDA, and Zlatko Lagumdzija, leader of the SDP, and will meet Amer Jerlagic, President of the Party for Bosnia, on Monday.
Referring to financial support for the campaign, he said that Radoncic of the SBB had donated some 10,000 euro, the Federation entity some 20,000 euro and 50,000 dollars [40,000 euro] had come from the US embassy.
He added that the government of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity had also promised support before accusing the Bosnian Serb entity of financing "genocide denial".
“I want to remind you that the RS government in the last five years has invested some 1.5 million KM [750,000 euro] in genocide denial,” Suljagic said.
“If you look at the entity budget there is a line for the so-called Historical Project of Srebrenica whose only mission is to work on denial of facts on what happened in Srebrenica between July 12 to 16, 1995."
“We have no right to believe in the good intentions of such authorities,” Suljagic said.
Before the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosniaks in the town in July 1995 by the Bosnian Serb army under Ratko Mladic, Srebrenica was an overwhelmingly Bosniak town.
The pre-war municipality was home to some 37,000 people, 80 per cent of whom were Bosniak.
The percentages today are almost the opposite. Of some 6,000-7,000 people who actually live in the town, only about 30 per cent are Bosniaks and the rest are Serbs.
Although most local Bosniaks have either been killed or have left, the town remains deeply sensitive for most Muslims as a symbol of their wartime suffering.
More than 5,000 victims of the 1995 massacre are buried at the Potocari genocide memorial, site of an annual pilgrimage of remembrance.
Bosnia's election law was amended in 2008 for the local elections to enable Bosniaks no longer living in Srebrenica to vote there. But that change was valid only for that year's local elections.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.
Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.
When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.