Never again, for the same people?

by Sairah Yassir

Last week marked the 20th year anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. World leaders, mainstream media and “International Community” continued, and no doubt will continue, with their rhetoric of “never again” to a substantial level whilst continuing to condone and remain silent regarding the oppression of many Muslims within their own countries or supporting the oppression of Muslims abroad.

Just this week, on Saturday 19th July, Babar Ahmad was released. A man who for many years was detained without trial. Extradited, stripped and placed in solitary confinement for trumped up “terrorist” charges with his only escape from this awful ordeal being a plea bargain. Judge Janet Hall who accepted his plea noted:

“There was never any aid given by these defendants to effectuate a plot. By plot, I mean a terrorist plot … Neither of these two defendants were interested in what is commonly known as terrorism … It appears to me that he [Babar] is a generous, thoughtful person who is funny and honest. He is well liked and humane and empathetic…This is a good person who does not and will not seek in the future to harm other people.”

Yet, he did not return to a Britain of compassion, humanity and justice. Rather a Britain which continues its never ending “War on terror” narrative with misleading, irresponsible and sensationalist articles such as “Terrorist slips back into UK after release from US jail”. This is a narrative which has seen not only the death of many innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq but also military expenditure spent on bombing civilians in Syria and Libya.

What is more, on Wednesday 8th July, the evening prior to the one year commemoration of the  latest massacre unleashed by Netenyahu in Gaza, the BBC with its ever “objective” journalism once again released a documentary entitled “Children of the Gaza War” withstanding fair historical, political or social context with regards to the Palestinian plight – especially the effect this has had specifically on Palestinian children. During a recent film showing as part of Manchester Srebrenica Memorial Week 2015, “A Cry to the Grave” was aired, ironically also released by the BBC, one section of the film in particular stood out: blood, limbs and the haunting sound of Bosnian Muslims wailing depicted some of the aftermath Bosnian Muslims suffered at the hands of the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb) militia.  This was followed immediately by a scene featuring Bosnian Serbs mourning their dead. A local Bosnian Muslim who very narrowly escaped the onslaught carried out by the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb) militia took issue with this “objectivity” with the repetition of “They are not Muslim. But they are not Muslim?!” Although there were Bosnian Serb deaths, to depict their suffering as relatively equal to Bosnian Muslims echoes of similar partial BBC journalism we observe today of how Israelis are alleged to suffer just as gravely as Palestinians. The victim is in the same boat as the oppressor apparently.  A shameful continuation of a shameful legacy for the BBC.

However, the BBC cannot solely be blamed as they are funded by the government. On Monday 6th July during a Civic event in Westminster Abbey, David Cameron recently stressed words of “Never again can we allow this kind of thing to happen” whilst Pro-Palestinian campaigners demonstrating outside the infamous Elbit weapons factory in Shenstone were at the receiving end of severe police brutality and arrested for taking a stand against arms being manufactured and sold to massacring maniacs such as Netanyahu. David Cameron who pledged to “continue funding initiatives which remember Srebrenica” has recently passed the CTS bill which effectively legally mandates public figures such as doctors and teachers to spy on Muslims in the hope of curbing them from becoming “terrorists”. This suspicion and othering is exactly what led Serb nationalists to commit grave human rights abuses including genocide, physical, mental and sexual abuse towards Bosnian Muslims. Bosnian Muslims were “dangerous” Bosnian Serb nationalists alluded; “we will take our revenge from the Turks” Ratko Mladić, former Bosnian Serb military leader and perpertrator of war crimes, is famously quoted to have said.

The continuous suppression of historical, political and social facts, overtly and covertly, incites disunity amongst the average person in what is supposed to be a multicultural society, and in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina led to heinous violence. When certain history is ellipsed, an indirect or direct form of subordination occurs as that group of people are not deemed as important to mention. Bosnian Serb nationalists until this day taunt survivors of the genocide with Ottoman or “Turk” related slurs. This disregards the centuries under Ottoman rule where the Serbian Orthodox community began settling and establishing multiple places of worship in cities like Sarajevo in the first instance. What is more, Muslims in Bosnia are reported to have settled there since the 10th and 11th centuries. Although there were some people who were Slav in origin who converted to Islam during Ottoman rule, there were significant waves of ethnic Muslims to Bosnia and Herzegovina including Muslim Albanians, the Pomaks and the Torbesh, also referred to as the Gorans. Likewise, Muslims have lived peacefully in Britain for more than a century but are now depicted as the greatest threat. This once again disregards Muslim history in Britain through figures such as John Nelson, Pasqua Rosee who is alleged to have brought coffee to Britain, Muhammad Asad, Abdullah Quilliam and many more.

The value of the words “never again” have long seemed to be nothing more than fanciful hyperbole. If Britain and its allies truly did honour these words, chemical weapons in the form of Sarin would not have been sold to Bashar al-Assad from six years prior to the Ghouta massacre. The British government and its allies would not pander to the Israeli lobby. Their foreign exploits with the United States of America would cease. For many, particularly in the Global South, “never again” appears to signify nothing more than “never again” for the same people. Or “never again” in the same geographical location. What national and international leaders fund in one country seems to be what they destroy in another, how else would these actors be relieved of accountability? Mladić stroked the heads of innocent Bosnian Muslim children and the world sighed a temporary breath of relief. When the cameras stopped rolling, he began slaughtering them again, not only does propaganda sell, it “wins” wars.

The UN of course is reported to be just as culpable with leaked evidence obtained by renowned journalist, Florence Hartmann.  This is in addition to last week’s delay in classifying the Srebrenica genocide as a genocide in the UN Security Council, thus once again failing Bosnian Muslims and bringing to question what use the UN actually serves the average person who has been at the brunt of these atrocities. It is worth also noting that the Hague has forbidden acclaimed interpreter and survivor Hasan Nuhanovic from appearing in the tribunal, thus raising alarms for justice campaigners of where cries for “free speech” and “Western values” happen to be in this case. This is all while the Rohyinga continue to be massacred, as do the people of CAR, the people of Iraq, the people of Palestine, the people of Syria, the people of Yemen and sadly the list continues.

This “othering” of Muslims within and without Bosnia has led many justice seekers to conclude that they do not expect the UN and its members to recognise the liberation of various independence movements, yet through the commemoration of the dead and in the remembrance of the living, national and international leaders will continue to be exposed for their complicity and their hypocrisy. In their remembrance, justice campaigners aim to continue opposing national and international selectivity and subjectivity. In their remembrance, they will never let national and international leaders forget.

Sairah Yassir is a graduate of French and International Politics.  She currently researches contributions of diverse peoples to science, technology and civilisation. She is active in local, national and global campaigns for justice, and frequently blogs about social and political affairs.

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