Bosnian Muslims mark 24th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre
Bosnia Herzegovina on Thursday marked the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide by burying 33 newly identified victims of the massacre in a collective funeral. Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide -- which claimed the lives of over 8,300 people -- are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari, eastern Bosnia. Thousands of visitors from various countries attend the funeral service and burials.
The ceremony at a memorial site near Srebrenica on Thursday will include the burial of 33 newly identified victims of the July 11-22, 1995 massacre in which more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in and around the U.N.-protected enclave by Bosnian Serb troops during the Bosnian civil war.
Most of the victims' remains have been found in mass graves near Srebrenica, but more than 1,000 are still considered missing.
Mevlid Halilovic, a relative of a victim, said many of those who took part in the massacre are still at large and "live just around here."
With this year's service, the number of burials in the cemetery rose to 6,643.
At the service, relatives of the victims bid emotional final farewells to their loved ones.
On social media, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wrote that history will never forget the Srebrenica genocide, which claimed the lives of more than 8,300 innocent people.
On Tuesday, Erdogan together with Bosnian officials and members of the public prayed for the victims and placed flowers on a truck carrying the bodies of newly identified victims in the capital Sarajevo.
Sarajevo locals showed great interest in the president and first lady Emine Erdogan, who took time to chat with them and have their photos taken.
Sefik Dzaferovic, the Bosniak member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina presidency, said it is difficult to be a member of a presidency whose chairman denies the Srebrenica genocide, referring to Milorad Dodik, the Serb currently helming the presidency.
Many Serbs in the region effectively deny the genocide in Srebrenica, minimizing it as a crime committed by a group of Serbs.
Osman Cvrk, who was only 16 when he was killed, will be the youngest victim to be buried this year. Saha Cvrk, the oldest, was 82. She is the only woman to be buried in this year's ceremony.
Also at the historic bridge in Mostar -- an iconic multi-faith city -- people gathered on Thursday to throw white lilies into the Neretva River, symbolizing the innocence of the genocide's victims.
Elsewhere, hundreds of motorcyclists from across Europe held a procession from the country's capital Sarajevo to Srebrenica to commemorate the victims.
More than 300 bicyclists from across the country also gathered in the northern city of Bihac to honor the victims. A group of 10 bicyclists on Monday also took off from Austria's capital Vienna.
On Sunday, thousands of people from all over the world set off on a three-day commemorative peace march in the town of Nezuk near the Bosnian city of Tuzla.
More than 6,000 participants traveled about 35 kilometers (22 miles) each day to reach Potocari, spending the nights in designated wooded areas.
During the long walk, they heard details of the genocide and the memories of survivors who took the so-called "Death Road" in their attempt to flee Bosnian Serb forces during the war.
More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces attacked the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in July 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.
Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form their own state.
The UN Security Council had declared Srebrenica a "safe area" in the spring of 1993. However, Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic -- who later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide -- overran the UN zone.
The Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing about 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone. Some 15,000 Srebrenica people fled into the surrounding mountains, but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 of them in the forests.