Analysis, Europe

Key Lessons From Remembering Srebrenica

A Westminster Abbey service has been held to remember the thousands of Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica killed by Bosnian Serb forces 20 years ago.

Prime Minister David Cameron led tributes ahead of the Westminster service, saying : “We must never, ever forget what happened”. “We must reaffirm our determination to act to prevent genocide in the future.”

The former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke has admitted that the Bosnian war was, “the greatest failure of the West since the 1930s.”

Yet these artificial gestures of sympathy and regret cannot in anyway excuse western complicity in the genocide of the Bosnian Muslims, and it further exposes the duplicity of western foreign policy remaining silent on the continuing genocide of Muslims in the Central African Republic, Burma and Palestine and the violence perpetuated by western foreign policy, a policy of intervention to maintain western interests in the Muslim world.

Prelude to the genocide

Bosnia had been part of the Uthmani Khilafah until 1878, when it was occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After the First World War, it was united with other Slavic territories to form Yugoslavia. In 1980, after the death of Yugoslavia’s President Tito, the country quickly plunged into political and economic turmoil. Slobodan Milosevic, a former Communist used nationalism and religious hatred as a political tool to gather support and became President in 1989.

In the spring of 1992, Bosnian Serb troops launched a hurricane of violence in pursuit of Milosevic’s vision of a “Greater Serbia”, after Bosnia voted for independence from the disintegrating Yugoslavia. An arms embargo which was imposed earlier on all of former Yugoslavia (i.e.: Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia) by the United Nations, due to the violence in the Croatian territory, provided a military advantage to the Serbs as they were not disarmed by the UN.

The War in Bosnia

Throughout 1993, confident that the UN, the United States and the European Community would not take militarily action, Serbs in Bosnia freely massacred the Muslims. Emboldened by Milosevic’s campaign of terror against the Muslims and the Western powers’ consistent denial that “genocide” had taken place. They adopted the term “ethnic cleansing” instead of “genocide”, to hide the reality of the horrors that were being perpetrated in Bosnia.

Some of these crimes involved the bombardments of the civilian population of Sarajevo and of other besieged villages; massacres, forced evacuation of civilians to modify the ethnic structure of the particular area; illegal internment of the civilian population in concentration camps; torture; summary executions with the sole aim of eliminating any trace of non-Serbian influence in the conquered territories; and starvation of civilians who resisted. At the end of this brutal campaign to eliminate any trace of Muslims in the Balkan region, the facts and figures were astounding. Approximately 100,000-300,000 Muslims were murdered and 1,000,000 Muslims had become refugees.

Genocide in Srebrenica

Survivors of the onslaught fled into three eastern enclaves where the Bosnian army had resisted: Goražde, Žepa and Srebrenica, their populations swelled by the displaced refugees. The population of Srebrenica swelled from 9,000 to 42,000. On the 16thof April 1993, the United Nations Security Council proclaimed Srebrenica as one of six “safe areas” to be defended by the United Nations Protection Force. In Srebrenica, one of the “safe havens”, UN peacekeepers stood by as the Serbs under the command of General Ratko Mladic systematically slaughtered nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys between the ages of twelve and sixty.

The capitulation of Srebrenica by the UN troops occurred despite the western nations knowing full well what awaited the population of Srebrenica. France’s foreign minister at the time, Alain Juppé, said in an interview: “We all knew the men would be annihilated, or at least that the Serbs were not sparing the lives of prisoners”.

Western complicity

Two days after the fall of Srebrenica the French General Morillon and UN Commander Lars-Eric Wahlgren were seen celebrating with Radovan Karadzic and Serb Military Commander Radko Mladic, at a banquet in the town of Pale. The disarming of the Muslims, following Serbian ultimatums, allowed the Serb forces to move unhindered to their next targets, the Muslim towns of Maglaz and Olovo.

Former US president Clinton said “U.S. allies in Europe blocked proposals to adjust or remove the embargo…Key allies objected that an independent Bosnia would be “unnatural” as the only Muslim nation in Europe” with “some European leaders were not eager to have a Muslim state in the heart of the Balkans” He said President François Mitterrand of France had been especially blunt in saying that Bosnia did not belong in Europe. 2

Lessons for the Muslim Ummah:

1. Reliance on western states and institutions is a folly

Allah سبحانه وتعالى has revealed:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَتَّخِذُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَىٰ أَوْلِيَاءَ ۘ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ

“Oh you who believe! Take not the Jews and Christians as Auliya (friends, protectors), they are but Auliya of each other.”

(Al-Maida, 5:51)

The Srebrenica genocide clearly demonstrates that western institution like the United nations or the western powers are not friends of the Muslim word, they stood by and watched the massacre, even though the residents of Srebrenica refused to evacuate, under the mistaken belief that United nations forces would protect them, yet they not only handed over the men and boys of Srebrenica but also supplied over 30’000 litres of petrol to enable Serb forces to transport the men and bury them in mass graves!

This has again been repeated in the support for Israeli aggression against Muslims in occupied territories, or the damning silence on Burma, The Central African Republic and many other recent events.

2. The west only intervenes to achieve its foreign policy objectives

The Bosnian conflict has been used as an example of the wests failure to intervene and has since been used to justify intervention on a humanitarian basis. It formed the basis of the “Clinton doctrine.” as a pretext to intervene in Kosovo in 1999. This doctrine basically stated that the United States would forcefully intervene to prevent human rights abuses when it can do so without suffering substantial casualties, without the authority of the UN Security Council.

Yet it is the Bosnian conflict and the duplicity of many other interventions since, and the failure to intervene in other conflicts such as Syria at this moment in time, which brings into question, the humanitarian motives of western states and their foreign policy objectives.

The conflicting statements from European and American officials regarding numerous issues whether the arming of Bosnian forces, to the support for Milosevic actions demonstrate that they were not all singing from the same hymn sheet. Differences emerged based on competing interests, and unfortunately the Muslims of Bosnia, were used as part of the American ploy to teach Europe a lesson.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe began to explore a political presence on the world arena independent of American Policy.  The United States contrived the creation of a perceived threat from the former Eastern bloc in the form of the Balkans crisis. The Economist reported on 20 April 1985 that “trouble in the Balkans has a habit of causing trouble elsewhere”. A conflict in the Balkans would continue to keep Europe busy at home and show that Europe cannot do without American “leadership” and provide a reason for the US to maintain its military involvement (NATO) in Europe after the end of the Cold War. This point was reiterated by Clinton in his “protecting Europe speech” prior to the second intervention in the Balkans during the Kosovo crisis where he said “We act to prevent a wider war; to diffuse a powder keg at the heart of Europe that has exploded twice before in this century with catastrophic results. And we act to stand united with our allies for peace.”

These are the American “interests” in Bosnia. All the rhetoric of “humanitarian” rhetoric is the usual sugar coating we have all become too familiar with in American foreign policy. It was the Bush administration who instigated a crisis in the first place by supporting Milosevic and maintained it by imposing weapons embargo on Bosnia, so as to create a demand for the US. The Bosnian peace “deal” was designed to fulfil these American interests by creating an unstable Bosnia.

3. Muslim in the West

Bosnia was a clear reminder that even after years of assimilation, the fair skinned blue eyed Bosnians were still not accepted by Europe, because they were Muslims. This is a lesson Muslims living in the west need to learn from, no matter how many of our values and traditions we abandon in the attempt to modernise and become part of wider society there will always remain a suspicion. Allegations of a 5th column, or entryism when the Muslim community attempts to engage with secular political parties, or engage in other institutions will always remain.

The Muslim community needs to tackle the hysteria created by government policies and attempts to manipulate opinion against Islam, by adhering steadfastly to our values and more importantly by engaging with wider society and ordinary members of the public. This is the only way to expose and challenge the hysteria western governments have created in their “war of terror” to justify their colonialist polices to their electorate.

4. Security can only be achieved under the Khilafah

“Behold, the Imam is but a shield from behind which people fight and by which they protect themselves.” [Muslim]

We must learn from our History from the example of the likes of the Khalifah al-Muʿtaṣim bi’llāh when he heard reports of a Muslim woman were attacked by the Romans in the Roman city Ammuriah. The Khalifah said, “A report has reached me that one Muslim sister was attacked in a Roman city. Wallahi, I will send an army that is so big that when it reaches them it is still leaving our base. And tell me the strongest city of these Romans and I will send the army to that city.”

We require a sincere and aware leadership with the determination to face up to any threat posed to this Ummah, a shield as described in many hadith to protect the live and honour of this Ummah. So that when the likes of former the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić mockingly questioned the Muslims in Bosnia as he slaughtered them, “where is your Allah now?” He would receive the decisive response he deserves.

Irfan Hussain