UN’s special advisor on the prevention of genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, has warned that genocide denial in Bosnia is a barrier to reconciliation in the country.
Speaking at the Srebrenica Memorial Center, Nderitu spoke of the importance of accountability for not only the victims of past genocides, but also to prevent future crimes.
“Preventing genocide requires targeted sustained actions that include, pursuing together, as mutually reinforcing imperatives, peace, reconciliation, justice, and countering hate speech,” Nderitu said.
“Yet, denialism and revisionism continue, including from the highest political levels…. We see this dangerous trend,” she continued.
Nderitu spoke directly to the role of Bosnia’s education system in facilitating genocide denial, arguing that it “segregates children, instils division, increases mistrust, impedes reconciliation and is a long-term threat to stability and security.”
Segregated schools in Bosnia continue to operate today, with children divided according to their ethnicity. Typically it is Croat and Bosniak students who are separated, including fenced playgrounds and separate classrooms within the same school. The system is referred to in Bosnia as “Two Schools Under One Roof.”
For many students, the split is an unwelcome inheritance from Bosnia’s ethnic wars of the 1990s.
“They don’t want us to socialize in school,” says Iman Maslic, an 18-year-old Muslim student, ”so we go to cafes after class and hang out together there.”
In recent years, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has pushed to eliminate segregated education in the country, warning that the insistence on teaching “ethnically oriented curricula” will only perpetuate divisions, “limit economic development and jeopardize the long-term stability and security.”
In one school in the city of Jajce, students successfully protested segregation and were allowed to study together after a local minister wanted to separate Muslim students from their Croatian classmates.
Even so, at least 50 schools remain in Bosnia where students of different ethnicities are divided within the same building, studying on different floors or in different shifts.
Bosnian nationalist figures continue to condone segregated education, but many young politicians have begun calls to abolish the “Two Schools Under One Roof” system.
“We do not want to send our kids to Two Schools Under One Roof,” wrote Lana Prlic, a member of Bosnia’s Social Democrat Party, on her Twitter, ““That’s why we are fighting for a COUNTRY FOR ALL OF US.”
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has conclusively determined that a genocide took place in Srebrenica in 1995. Even so, the event remains a political football for nationalists in the country, not least due to deliberate misinformation campaigns by Moscow.
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