Muslim women mourn
loss at Srebrenica
July 12, 1996
Web posted at: 1:30 a.m. EDT (0530 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
TUZLA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Thousands of Muslim women who fled the Bosnian Serb takeover of Srebrenica (map) gathered at an arena Thursday, where they shared the pain of what happened a year ago.
About 3,000 Muslim men and boys are believed to have been massacred when Bosnian Serbs overran Srebrenica, a U.N. safe haven. Some reports suggest as many as 8,000 were murdered.
Most women wept as they remembered their missing husbands, sons, fathers and brothers. Some waved clothing bearing the names of the missing. At least a dozen women fainted, overwhelmed by a combination of grief and summer heat.
Jordan's Queen Noor led a large group of women dignitaries at Thursday's emotion-filled ceremony in Tuzla, the city to which most Srebrenica exiles fled. The queen said she represented the many women around the world who could not make the trip. (221K AIFF or WAV sound)
The dignitaries pledged their support and solidarity, promising millions of dollars in reparation. Their message was clear: "Don't forget, but look to the future."
In a letter from the United States, President Clinton praised the women for their courage. "There can be no justification for the barbaric terror you and your loved ones endured," Clinton said.
But the words offered little consolation. The women, most of them wearing traditional Muslim head scarves and baggy trousers, trembled.
Remembering Srebrenica's fall opens old wounds
At one point, organizers played a videotape of Srebrenica's fall in 1995. Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic was seen on the tape, supervising the separation of women from men.
The women then walked next to buses, ready to haul them away. Gen. Mladic told the women not to be afraid, that everyone would be bussed out, and safely reunited. They were not.
A year later, women wailed as they watched.
U.S. Army soldiers in attendance tried to comfort them. Many troops said they were glad to have attended, for it showed them why they were deployed to the region.
"Certainly being able to be a part of this event today makes all of us be able to know what has happened, and why we're here," said Capt. Jackie Hayes.
Investigators with the International War Crimes Tribunal, meanwhile, continue to exhume suspected mass graves around Srebrenica. About 40 bodies were found this week at one site.
Excavation teams will try to identify the remains and offer scientific evidence as to the causes of death. The evidence will be used to build a case against suspects indicted by the tribunal.
Bosnian Serbs have denied the massacres. They say the mass graves are full of combat dead.
One survivor, Hurem Suljic, told CNN the mass killings were real. Suljic said he and others men were lined up in rows and mowed down and that Gen. Mladic observed the killings: "He stood there and waited until they killed them. He then got back in his car and left."
Suljic, who has testified before the war crimes tribunal, said he was one of the lucky ones.
"I heard a lot of shooting and bodies fell on top of me," he said. (Suljic speaking through a translator: 238K AIFF or WAV sound)
Mladic has been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. He remains at large, although apart from a public ski run, largely out of view.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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