Breaking a Difficult Silence: Memories of Srebrenica

Published January 29, 2018 by Nedžad Avdić

Nedžad Avdić is a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide, only one of the handful of those who survived mass executions in July 1995. This is his story about how his experiences inspired him to educate others to create a safer, better future:

"After July 1995, I felt that on mentioning the word of Srebrenica, it was enough to be silent. And I was silent for almost twenty years. I was young and was not conscious of all the consequences that would continue to haunt me. I did not want to admit that the dreadful pictures of Srebrenica had become a part of me and my life, and always would be, as long as I walked and breathed. I did not talk about the horror I had gone through as 17-year-old boy. I hid it deeply inside me. I even chose my profession which would not have any connection with Srebrenica and my bloody past, a profession based on escaping and putting those horrible memories and experiences behind me. I wanted to get rid of it. However, I was wrong. Because it was impossible. It was not something you could simply delete from your memory, it was not something you could run away from, and it was not something you could live somewhere peacefully with. With that you have to cope.

Having been returned to Srebrenica, I dealt with the most awful pictures from my past which were still buried deeply inside me, but were not yet ready to be spoken.

Everyday looking around me I could see traces of the past, at every turn, I could feel hatred in the air, I heard the deniers: mass killings were somewhere else, mass graves did not exist. In fact, according to them, we did not have fathers, brothers, sons, relatives, neighbours, friends, schoolmates....... Facts and international judgements were not relevant. Genocide was denied. Simply, I sensed huge injustice around me.

What could I do? First of all, I had to accept my painful experiences. And then break my silence, a difficult silence, but one I had to break forever in order to struggle for justice openly. Although I often felt like I was losing hope without support from anywhere, I was determined never to use my tragedy as an excuse for hatred of anything else.

Since then I do something almost every day to say to the world that Srebrenica must never happen again. What happened to us must never again be done to human beings. Actually, it is my moral obligation, I must go forward and tell all those who are not ready yet to hear that we must not accept a repetition of such acts. Unfortunately, we witness on a daily basis massacres all over the world, as never before. So, it is not enough just to speak, we have to act, behave and to live according to our words. So, lessons from Srebrenica's past can be very useful. If they cannot help us because it is too late, I hope that they will help someone else.

Therefore, I am dedicated to educate people about genocide, especially young people. I will always do it with immense pleasure, because it is important not only to create good engineers, good physicists, good economists, good doctors, it is important for us to be good people in the end."

Nedžad Avdić will be participating in a workshop at the Woolf Institute on Friday 2 March. All are welcome to attend. For further information please see here

Back to Blog