Elizabeth Pennington: Denying History only increases Tensions

July 15, 2017 3:15 PM

It was revealed recently that Milorad Dodik, the President of the Republika Srpska (RS); has plans to ban all teaching from schools about the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica genocide; that left just over 8,000 Bosniaks men and boys dead over an 11 day period in July 1995.

I arrived in Bosnia in April 2017, were I was working on a short documentary about life after the war. As we drove over the hills into Sarajevo, the bullet holes and shrapnel scars held a stark reminder of the country’s troubled past. I stared out of the window of the taxi, watching as elderly women greeted each other with a kiss on the cheek and men in suits racing past with their briefcases on their way to work. Life here goes on but it’s hard to imagine to horrors that occurred here in this city two decades and some years ago. Events here are not black and white. But, the suggested banning of teaching these events in Bosnian schools that are located in Republika Srpska, one of the entities in BiH, is set to only increase the ethnic tensions and division in the country. It’s almost impossible to imagine today, that somebody in power would want to deny an event that so evidently occurred and events that still haunts residents today.

The war, for example from 1992 – 1995 was left out of the history books, due to each of the political parties in the country having different versions of the events that took place. This means that school children only learn of their country’s history up until 1990, Dodik told Bosnian media recently:

It’s impossible to use the textbooks … which say the Serbs have committed genocide and kept Sarajevo under siege. This is not correct and this will not be taught here…”

It is clear that these events are not black and white. However, this firm denial of facts from Dodik only slows the progress of this nation. Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), as a country is, I believe, moving forward, but with difficulty. The people within the region have suffered greatly and it is clear that their wounds run deep. The world has watched as further atrocities have taken place in Rwanda, Syria, South Sudan, all of which echo the fact that we as a global community cannot deny such events. In order to move forward as a nation, the country’s leaders have to agree on the events that took place in order to bring about true reconciliation and healing for all.

Written by Elizabeth Pennington

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