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Srebrenica Survivors Mark 15th Anniversary of the Massacre with a 15th Memorial Quilt

September 17, 2010

Written by AP

Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, July 7: A group of grieving Bosnian women who survived the notorious 1995 massacre at Srebrenica marked the fifteen year anniversary of the massacre with a work of art – a large quilt that carries the names of women who were murdered in 1995. The quilt is the fifteenth to have been woven by members of the Bosnian women’s group Bosfam in an effort to ensure that those who died at Srebrenica are never forgotten. So far Bosfam weavers have commemorated about three hundred victims through quilts.

Two of the 15 quilts are in the US, where they will be exhibited at events in San Francisco and Washington. The other 13 quilts were displayed in Bosnia at the Srebrenica-Poto. Over 40,000 visitors visited Poto. The massacre began on July 11, 1995 when the Bosnian Serb army overran the town of Srebrenica after a 3-year siege. Over 8,000 men and boys were separated and methodically murdered. Women and children were put on buses and expelled to the Muslim part of Bosnia.

The traumatized women turned to weaving as a form of therapy, but quickly became skilled practitioners of a traditional art. In 2003, Bosfam and the Advocacy Project (AP) joined forces to use their carpets for advocacy. AP brought several to the US and exhibited them in Washington, Baltimore and Boston, where they drew crowds and media coverage. In 2006, the weavers decided to use quilts to memorialize the victims.

AP has posted online maps of the quilts using photographs where available. Most of the Srebrenica women had no chance to collect family mementos before they were expelled, but the occasional photo provides a haunting glimpse of life in Srebrenica before the catastrophe.  The quilts have proved particularly popular with Bosniak diaspora groups, which have used quilts to commemorate their own lost relatives and with universities. The Bosniak American Advisory Council for Bosnia and Hercegovina (BAACBH) has also used the quilts at events at the US Capitol, to lobby for a tougher US policy on Bosnia.

The quilt project owes much of its success to ten AP Peace Fellows who have volunteered with Bosfam since 2003 and provided friendship for the weavers during the difficult days around the July anniversary of the massacre. This year’s Peace Fellow, Laila Zulkaphil, a Mongolian student at Georgetown University, has managed the online content and is producing powerful blogs.

Since 2003, the partnership between Bosfam and AP has generated $83,374.43 for the weavers, although the larger goals have always been to keep the memory of Srebrenica alive, identify victims, and secure justice. Eight years later, all three goals are closer to being realized. Today, Srebrenica is universally recognized as a symbol of genocide and even Serbia may be feeling remorse. Elsewhere in the world, quilting is starting to catch on as a tool for advocacy. Three other AP partners have either made a quilt, or plan to make quilts, in Guatemala, Nepal and the Congo. While they will all carry a powerful message, each panel will remain a deeply personal expression of grief and determination.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 22, 2010 10:50 pm

    Hilary, I love learning about this project, and all your work, as always. I’ll spread the word. Please do the same for Unity Through Creativity – http://www.UnityThroughCreativity.net.

    With High Regard,

    Laurie

  2. Natasha permalink
    September 30, 2010 10:05 pm

    You may be interested in this video. Marking the Massacre in Srebrenica: http://www.time.com/time/video/player/0,32068,621039598001_2022491,00.html

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