Bosnia: Mars Mira - March for Peace
Marš Mira (March for Peace and originally March of Death) is an annual peace walk held in Bosnia y Herzegovina by survivors in memory of the over 8000 victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
The march starts on July 8th at the village Nezuk near Tuzla and for 3 days (in backward direction) follows the original paths of about 120km where in 1995 more than 17000 Bosniak men and boys tried to escape the Serbian militia starting from Potocari near Srebrenica. Only few reached the territory of the free Bosnian army near Tuzla alive. The first survivors arrived after three days, the last ones in early winter of 1995. Most of the men and boys were captured and shot or died in the minefields.
The march culminates in the participants' arrival to the village of Potocari, where the annual funeral at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial is held on July 11th.
I am visiting Srebrenica since 2012 with one of the last NGOs working in the area and have covered the Mars Mira 2 times. In 2015, marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide, I have walked the whole distance of ca 120km with 10000 participants, mainly family members of victims, survivors and veterans of the Bosnian war, but also many international supporters. The three days march leads through beautiful hilly Bosnian landscape with dense vegetation and some destroyed villages. We also pass quite a few (still not cleared) mine fields and several sites of mass graves. The camping facilities are provided by the Bosnian army or people just sleep in the open regardless of the weather. The days were very hot and damp and therefor physically quite demanding. We walk in silence, there is no loud talking or singing. In the evenings we listened to the stories of survivors and veterans. Wherever we pass the locals do whatever they can to supply the participants, be it with coffee, water or self baked cakes.
On arrival in Potocari on July 10th the male participants of Mars Mira carry the coffins from the morgue to the Memorial where the annual funeral takes place the next day. Each year, only the bodies from the mass graves that have been clearly identified by the forensic team working in Tuzla are released for the funeral.
Srebrenica and its cruel fate are nowadays widely neglected in the international attention. Unemployment in the region is high, infastructure is practically non-existing, ethnic and political tensions are on the rise again, few Bosniaks dared to return to their farms and nearly none of the international donations reached the area.
Mars Mira, originally "March of Death", and its large number of participants is a peaceful way of the Bosnian people to try to call attention to their fate and the ongoing injustice. Having witnessed their sadness and exeptional dignity in trying to honour their dead, it is hard for me to understand why their fate is still widely ignored. I will participate again in Mars Mira 2017.