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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Srebrenica's scars slow to heal
A Bosnian Serb investigation into the Srebrenica massacre has recognised that more than 7,000 Muslims were murdered when the town was overrun by Serb forces in July 1995. It is the first time the Bosnian Serbs have admitted the death toll.

The BBC's Nick Hawton reports on Srebrenica's efforts to recover and the pain that lingers on.


Hatidza Mehmedovic, 53, serves me the Turkish coffee in her house on a slope over-looking Srebrenica. Her eyes are intense. She speaks with a controlled passion.

Srebrenica today
Srebrenica's mosque has been rebuilt and 2,700 Muslims returned
"I lost my husband, two sons and two brothers. Only the remains of one of my brothers has so far been found.

"We hope one day we'll find them. That's what I live for. That is why I came back here two years ago."

Hatidza's story is not unusual for the Muslim women of Srebrenica. She is just one of the many victims who has to live with what happened during those scorching days of the summer of 1995.

"As for this report into the massacre, it's not good enough," she says.

"It will only be complete when we know the full truth - who killed my sons? Who ordered their deaths? Who drove the digger that buried them? Who was the driver?"

Conflicting stories

In the Serb village of Kravica a few kilometres away, Milan Zivanovic, 43, is distilling home-made plum brandy on the banks of a small stream. He fought as a Serb soldier during the war.

Hatidza Mehmedovic
I lost my husband, two sons and two brothers... we hope one day we'll find them
Hatidza Mehmedovic
Srebrenica Muslim
"I don't know what happened at Srebrenica in July 1995. I wasn't there. I don't know why so many people died. Maybe there was some fighting among themselves".

But Milan believes the world does not know the full truth. Kravica itself was attacked by Muslim forces in January 1993. Milan says 107 people were killed, most of them civilians.

"The media coverage of what happened at Srebrenica is unfair. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years time, they will show that we Serbs were also victims here."

Relations between Serbs and Muslims are cordial. There have been some case of intimidation, but no serious cases of violence.

Milan says hello to Muslims he recognises from before the war and who have now returned. They occasionally go for a drink. Reconciliation takes time.

Coming back to life

These days, Srebrenica is in the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia, a legacy of the Dayton Peace Agreement in 1995.

Milan Zivanovic, a Serb
Perhaps in 10 or 20 years time, they will show that we Serbs were also victims here
Milan Zivanovic
Former Serb soldier

Muslims did not begin returning to the area until 2000, still fearful for their safety. But since then, the rate of return has dramatically increased.

According to the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, 2,701 Muslims have now returned to the Srebrenica Municipality. Before the war, there were 27,000.

William Tarpai, from the UNHCR in Bosnia, says this area now has the fastest rate of refugee returns anywhere in Bosnia.

"Returnees are coming back. This year alone, in the Srebrenica Municipality, Muslims have returned to 15 isolated, rural areas. No one has lived in these places since the end of the war," he says.

International help

Money has come in from the international community. The United Nations Development Programme is encouraging reconstruction. The Dutch Government contributed 600,000 euros to help improve the water system.

Destroyed houses in town centre
War damage is still evident in the town centre
Some businesses have been started, like the freezer plant which has been built next to the old UN base.

But there are still major challenges ahead. Unemployment remains very high, well over 50%.

There are reports that drug use among the young is on the increase. Many young people want to leave, just like other places in Bosnia.

"I was a refugee in Sarajevo," says Hatidza. "But I returned here because this is my town.

"These are my streets. I even prefer the rain here rather than in Sarajevo."


SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Srebrenica massacre
02 Aug 01 |  Europe
Srebrenica timeline
20 Feb 03 |  Europe
Analysis: Proving genocide
13 Jan 04 |  Europe
Q&A: The hunt for Karadzic
01 Apr 04 |  Europe


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