Wednesday, June 30, 1999 Published at 08:43 GMT 09:43 UK
Seeking the truth in Srebrenica
What looks like a peaceful valley is actually a graveyard
By BBC Newsnight's David Sells in Srebrenica
The Women no longer live in Srebrenica. They are Bosnian Muslims who fled the town in 1995 when it was captured during the Bosnian war. We met up with them in Tuzla, some 60 miles to the north-west. Bosnia is still divided, a nation state in name only. Srebrenica lies in the so-called Republika Srpska, TuzIa in the Muslim-ruled area.
Seeking the truth
It is an association of women, but there are men helping it too, men who similarly have lost relatives and want to know the truth.
In 1995 he was working as an interpreter in Srebrenica with the Dutch battalion, part of the United Nations force in Bosnia struggling to keep a non-existent peace. The town's population was two-thirds Muslim, one-third Serbian.
Srebrenica had been named a "safe haven" by the UN Security Council, but member nations had declined to provide enough troops to make sense of their declaration. The town was packed with Muslim refugees.
"The Dutch ordered those inside the camp to leave the camp," Hasan told us. "Serbs were standing at the gate together with Dutch soldiers. I begged the Dutch to save my brother, by allowing him to stay on the base. But everyone was thrown out of the base. My parents and my brother - I saw them for the last time crossing through the gate. Then the Serbs took them away."
Hasan knows now that his mother was murdered. A Serb has told him as much.
"I thanked him for the information because at least I know that she is dead now."
It is the not knowing that leaves people in a false world, in a limbo of confusion and hope.
Why, still, four years on? The process of identification is painfully slow. A foreign pathologist told the Women of Srebrenica at a special Tuzla meeting: "This work is going to go on for many years." And there are thousands more Srebrenica citizens still unaccounted for.
Almasa Alic is one of the Women of Srebrenica. She is a lady of remarkable resilience who lives with her one surviving son. She is filled with the hope that by some miracle, her missing husband and elder son may still be alive.
"I summoned the strength to go and see every bone, to open every bag, but they just weren't there."
Investigators from the Hague Tribunal, seeking to document the Srebrenica massacre, have exhumed dozens of mass graves, but their interest ends there. They are not concerned to identify individual bodies they dig up.
Mrs Alic and Hasan Nuhanovic are not fools, far from it. The International Red Cross says the Serbs hold no Muslim prisoners, that the missing are dead. "But," says Hasan, "it is possible that somewhere in the Republika Srpska, or in Yugoslavia - more likely in Yugoslavia - there are people who are still alive."
If you don't know, you dream. Hope springs eternal in the human breast. What is needed is the truth, however grim.