Decorated Professor David Pettigrew visited Elmhurst College to give a lecture on the Bosnian genocide of 1995 and the existing struggle to achieve the proper recognition of the genocide that occurred.
Pettigrew, a professor of philosophy and holocaust and genocide studies at Southern Connecticut State University, spoke on the history of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Bosnia.
“As soon as Bosnia is recognized in the international community in March of 1992, in April they begin to violently remove any non-Serbs from that territory,” explained Pettigrew. “The Serbs began a strategy of genocidal aggression ranging from the murder and forcible displacement of innocent civilians in Visegrad to the torture and murder of civilians in Prijedor.”
After speaking on the history of violence that occurred in Bosnia, Pettigrew then discussed the ongoing issue surrounding the establishment of memorials to remember those that died in the conflict.
“In the wake of such heinous atrocities, it would seem that the survivors of this genocide should have the right to establish memorials of commemoration in order to mourn the victims,” he said. “In the years following the genocide however, survivors have actually been prohibited from installing memorials to the victims in a number of locations.”
Pettigrew spoke specifically about his experience with a memorial that was erected in memory of the genocide at Visegrad where activists clashed with the Bosnian authorities.
“The survivors installed a memorial, in the Straziste cemetery which is a private Muslim cemetery and it bore the inscription ‘In Memory of the Victims of the Visegrad Genocide,’” he said. “Immediately after the installation the authorities decided the memorial should be demolished. They didn’t like the fact that it said genocide. Because they deny the genocide.”
Bearing this in mind, Pettigrew then compared the Bosnian government’s policy toward memorials that commemorate the Serb soldiers that served during the time of the genocide.
“As in the case of Visegrad, the effort to remember the victims in Prijedor had been subject to discriminatory policy. While survivors had been prohibited, the Serbs had installed a memorial of their own,” he explained. “They have recast the narrative, creating a law permitting the memorials for prominent members of the military who perished between 1992 and 1995. The law allows for memorials commemorating the ‘War of Liberation.’ This points to a policy that not only denies the genocide but instead refers to it as a liberation.”