Activists and families marked the White Armband Day in the northern Bosnian town of Prijedor on Wednesday, in memory of 3,176 Prijedor citizens who were killed or gone missing during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina during 1992-1995.
Organised by the civic initiative ‘Because it concerns me’, the commemoration started in the Old Town neighbourhood, at the location planned for the memorial to 102 Prijedor children killed in the war.
Carrying white roses and wearing white armbands on their arms, the crowd headed towards the Square of the Major Zoran Karlica, where they laid the flowers in a circle. They reiterated their call for construction of the children's memorial.
Fikret Bacic, a representative of the parents of the killed children of Prijedor and one of the organisers of the White Armband Day, said that they have been sending out the same call for years and that white roses are laid symbolically as a memorial to the killed children.
He stressed that they expect nothing from the local authorities, noting that the city authorities are not even accepting the talks with the international community either,
“It is hard to describe, to experience, to understand that for 31 years a small group of parents that stayed here is fighting to find mortal remains of our loved ones, of our children, our family. However, the city authorities and institutions that should be taking care of this process have not adequately carried out that process and they don't work,” said Bacic.
He also recalled that more than 7 thousand of persons are still missing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 640 in Prijedor only.
“I am personally searching for the remains of 22 persons, including children, mother, wife, daughter-in-law, their children. Some institutions and some people know the locations of those mass graves,” according to Bacic.
The ‘Because it concerns me’ initiative said it was about time to build a memorial for children in Prijedor, which will be a monument to the peace because it will remind of all the horrors that come along with wars.
They also emphasised that to date not a single citizen of Prijedor has publicly opposed the monument. They called on Prijedor mayor and the chair of the city assembly to urgently start the procedure and approve the construction of a monument for the 102 murdered children, because every new postponement would cause additional pain for the parents.
The symbolism of the white ribbons goes back to May 1992, when the Bosnian Serb authorities ordered all Bosniaks and Croats in Prijedor to hang white sheets on their windows, and to tie white ribbons around their arms if they went outside. In this way, non-Serbs were marked in Prijedor, after which mass arrests, murders and rapes began, Anadolu news agency recalled.
From 1992 to 1995, about 50 thousands people were expelled from Prijedor, and some 30 thousands men, women and children of non-Serb ethnicity passed through the Keraterm, Omarska and Trnopolje camps and 54 other places of detention.