Beyond the glitz of the Oscars, the fight for Srebrenica’s truth continues: an interview with Dr. Hikmet Karčić

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CN: this article contains discussion of genocide


In light of the Oscar and BAFTA defeats of the nominated Bosnian film, ‘Quo Vadis Aida?’, Politika News sat down with genocide scholar, Dr. Hikmet Karčić, to discuss the bigger picture. What are the takeaways from the film’s successes and defeats? How does denialism surrounding the Srebrenica genocide continue to evolve and why does this remain a present-day, international issue? Dr. Karčić tells all.

Dr. Hikmet Karčić is a genocide scholar based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He is a Researcher at the Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks (IITB) and is the author of the annual European Islamophobia Report (EIR) for Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He was also the 2017 Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation-Keene State College Global Fellow. In the past, he worked at the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Center for Advanced Studies. His research is focused on genocide and Holocaust studies, Islamophobia, memory studies and extremism.

Despite the huge support it received from war survivors, activists , the Bosnian diaspora, and even international politicians, Quo Vadis Aida? did not win the Oscar for Best International Feature. Does this matter?

‘Quo Vadis Aida?’ is the first Bosnian-Herzegovinian film on Srebrenica, which finally appeared a quarter of a century after the genocide was perpetrated. The film, although it did not win the Oscar or BAFTA, has created a large impact in the Balkan region but also worldwide. Even though it would have been great if it had won the awards, in the long run, the most important thing is that the film was made. ‘Quo Vadis Aida?’ has and will continue to have a large role in the memorialisation of genocide and the fight against denial and historical revisionism.

Generations of people, young and old, all over the globe now have the opportunity to learn about a small community designated for extinction in the heart of Europe. The fight to recognise the Bosnian genocide has reached its peak in the last few years. Denial and historical revisionism, once in the margins of society, have now become mainstream, publicly supported and endorsed. 

Dr. Hikmet Karčić is a genocide scholar based in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

‘The ideologies and political blocs that enabled genocide to be perpetrated still exist and are in full force’

Why is the truth of the Srebrenica genocide a present-day, international issue?

The Srebrenica genocide has remained relevant over the past two decades and has become the subject of regional and international political debate. The ideologies and political blocs that enabled genocide to be perpetrated still exist and are in full force so many years after many claimed that these politics had been defeated. The denial of the Srebrenica genocide and Bosnian genocide for that matter has entered mainstream discourse and is being used as a political tool on the international scene by major world powers.

This summer will mark 26 years since the genocide took place in July 1995. How has denialism evolved since the end of the war?

Denial of mass atrocities and genocide started at the same time as the crimes were committed. In many cases, the same arguments are being used today as were being used back in 1992-1995. Over the years, these tactics have been enhanced and, instead of being on the margins of society, they have entered mainstream discourse even among respectable Western academic-media circles. 

Arguments used by the perpetrators such as that the Bosnian government was shelling and sniping its own citizens in order to get international sympathy is one which has been shockingly adopted by some respectable Western academics today.

On the other hand, there exists a part of leftist academia which views Milošević’s Serbia as having been the frontier of anti-capitalism, and who to this day not only deny atrocities that were committed in Bosnia but also have moved on to deny atrocities being committed in Syria and China.  

With the progress of social media and new technologies, the denialist network has been keeping up with this modernisation and has claimed their space within these platforms. These networks create a fragile environment where young generations are exposed to historical revisionism. 

If we consider the denialism that continues to be propagated by both the Serbian government and the government of the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska, why may these politicians feel emboldened to continue denying the genocide 26 years on?

Most of these politicians along with different elites – political, media, police, economical, etc. – along with networks of organised crime, belong to the same structures which were in power a quarter of a century ago. Thus, these policies of denial are a continuity of polices of crime. 

‘The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was not an ad hoc event, but rather a well-planned and operationalised attack’

The infamous words of convicted war criminal, Ratko Mladić, upon entering Srebrenica included the line, “Finally, after the Rebellion against the Dahis, the time has come to take revenge on the Turks in this region.” What did this remark reveal to the world about the ideology behind the genocide?

The rhetoric used not only by Mladić, but by many others, revealed that the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was not an ad hoc event, but rather a well-planned and operationalised attack by a professional army fuelled with hate for Bosniaks – Slavic Muslims – who they viewed as the ‘Others’. These “Others” were depicted as not belonging to these lands and therefore needed to be forever eliminated from these territories.

The Srebrenica Memorial Center recently published a research project entitled “Genocide Papers”, which document how local Serb politicians in the Bosnian Serb assembly talked and referred to Bosniaks. This rhetoric shows a clear line and common understanding of these policies from 1991 to Mladić’s 1995 statement, and beyond. 

Finally, in one sentence, why is ‘Quo Vadis Aida?’ a must-see for non-Bosnians?

‘Quo Vadis Aida?’ is a testimony about the fate of a small Bosniak community in Eastern Bosnia which, in the space of a few days, was entirely eliminated in the heart of Europe, not very long ago. 

Politika News would like to thank Dr. Karčić for his time.

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Article Image Source: E-International Relations

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