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Srebrenica rebuilds amid memories

There are few jobs for Bosnian Muslims thinking of returning to Srebrenica  

By CNN's Avril Stephens

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Srebrenica is trying to rebuild itself amid economic devastation and war crime memories.

Financial aid is being channeled into the Bosnian town which still bears the structural scars of the 1992-95 war.

Buildings are bullet-ridden and homes remain charred while the factories that employed thousands of people before the conflict are still shut.

But it is the massacre of up to 10,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica during the summer of 1995 which still haunts the area.

Munira Subasic, who is helping to unveil a marker stone for a memorial to the slaughtered in the now Serb-dominated town, lost 22 of her male relatives.

graphicSrebrenica: Five days of evil

  • Survivor's Story
  • Gallery
  • Massacre background
  • Rebuilding Srebrenica
  • Prayers for the dead
  • Grief of the widows
  • Mass grave found
  • War crimes defendants
  • Profile: Radko Mladic
  • Profile: Radovan Karadzic


"For us time stopped on that day," she said.

Douglas Coffman, spokesman for the United Nations mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina and stationed in the area, told CNN that the awful memories were a key factor in preventing the refugees from returning six years on.

"What went on in Srebrenica was so terrible that it still puts people off from returning.

"A memorial will be a big part in moving Srebrenica forward," he added.

He said a strong feeling of resentment existed among the Bosnian Muslims against the international community for their lack of action during the massacre, despite the town having been a so-called U.N. 'safe haven.'

"It is very difficult for the international community to look people like Munira in the eye," he said.

"The international community let them down."

Another factor preventing Bosnian Muslims from returning is the lack of jobs and money.

"A lot still needs to be done, it is a bleak area," added Coffman.

"The economic situation is terrible. There are occasional weeks when there is no running water."

The U.N. is trying to create a multi-ethnic police force by attracting Bosnian Muslims into the force's ranks.

Currently, only one of the 57 officers in the area is a Bosnian Muslim -- with another being taken on next week.

Coffman said recent efforts to entice 20 Bosnian Muslim policemen into the republic's police force failed despite offers of supplemented pay and the provision of homes.

Srebrenica does not show any visible ethnic hatred now. Coffman said there is no anti-Muslim graffiti on the walls and no resentful comments overheard in the shops and bars.

"Life still goes on here, people still go to the cafes and attempt to lead a normal life," Coffman observed.

"The welcome for the small number of refugees who return is OK."

But any small incident could set back any progress, "sending the message not to come back."

"Reconstruction policies in this country are only beginning and anything that goes wrong could keep the refugees away," Coffman said.

Ethnic hatred does still exist in parts of the country. Last May, radical Bosnian Serbs rioted in Banja Luka and Trebinje in an attempt to prevent the laying of foundation stones for mosques that were destroyed in those towns during the war.

When relatives of the Srebrenica victims visited the town last year, their buses were stoned as they drove through the village of Bratunac.




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