SATURDAY, July 11 marked the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre.  Joanna Morris travelled to Bosnia with charity Remembering Srebrenica to hear the stories of those who survived ‘the worst genocide since the Holocaust’.

MORE than 8,000 Bosniaks – Bosnian Muslims, mainly men and boys – were killed during the Srebrenica massacre.

On July 11, 1995, the tiny enclave – previously declared a UN safe zone - fell to Serbian forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladic.

A tiny battalion of 400 Dutch UN peacekeepers did little to stop Mladic’s troops as they stormed the town, rounding up its inhabitants.

Thousands of women and children were dragged from their families and bussed out of Srebrenica, never to see their men again.

A column of men and boys - most recaptured and assassinated - fled into the hills but the thousands that remained were murdered, left to rot in unmarked mass graves.

Boys were dragged from their mothers’ arms, taken to assassination sites and mercilessly shot alongside their fathers, brothers and uncles.

A video used in war crime trials shows six men blindfolded and bound at a barren, woodland site.

They wait for their captors to bring a fresh camera battery before they line up and are systematically shot, the last two forced to bury their friends before being murdered themselves.

Described as the worst crime on European soil since WWII, the Srebrenica massacre was one of a series of atrocities attributed to the Bosnian Serb Army during the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

A small, elderly woman with haunted eyes greets us at the Srebrenica memorial site, a green field studded with white headstones as far as the eye can see.

Aisa Omerovic lost more than 42 members of her family in the massacre, including sons Esad and Emir.

She points to a long list of names, each representing a member of her family.

“I used to be the mother of two sons but I lost them, they were my only children and now I’m not a mother anymore and I have nobody else,” she says, voice trembling.

“In July 1995, this field was full of people – the men who found themselves here were all killed.

“They weren’t killed immediately, that would have been an easier death for them, they were killed over a few days in the most brutal ways imaginable.

“Their eyes were taken, their ears cut off, it was beyond anything that can be explained.

“They would take the fingers from the boys and make necklaces with them as proof of how many they’d killed.”

Mrs Omerovic’s boys were left in mass graves, their resting places disturbed when the perpetrators realised the graves were in danger of being discovered.

The Bosnians are still working to recover their dead, battling tirelessly to identify the missing, trying desperately to piece together the remains of individuals scattered across several burial sites.

“Our men were taken 50km away into the woods to be buried and after the crimes were discovered, they were dug up again and buried in secret mass graves.

“They thought they’d killed everyone and everything here but luckily they failed, there is always someone who remembers.

“They killed more than 8,000 – it’s very hard to imagine how many people died without any survivors left to report them missing.

“My uncle and his sons died but there’s nobody to search for them except me, he had no daughter and everyone else was killed –how many families are still like that?”

Today, Srebrenica is in the hands of the Serbs and the mothers of Srebrenica live alongside those they believe are responsible for genocide.

Mrs Omerovic lives alone, has no remaining family and is paid less than 70 euros a month for each missing son.

Recently, the elderly woman tried to lay a wreath at the spot she believes hides the remains of her son.

She was arrested, beaten and told by an officer he would like to see her with her head missing.

The mothers of Srebrenica live in constant fear of tensions erupting again as the Serbs and their victims exist alongside each other in an atmosphere of growing political tension.

“The people who committed the crimes against us then are still committing them now and it will never stop.

“The mothers are still here, without the protection of our sons, husbands and brothers – only the mothers remain.

“It’s a hard life with nobody behind us.”

Noble, dignified and stronger than her slight frame suggests, Mrs Omerovic lives to tell the tale.

She lives as a warning, a reminder that intolerance can spread quickly and take out everything in its path.

“Wherever you come from,” she pleads, “don’t allow this to happen in your country.

“Regardless of the colour of your skin, blood is the same in all of us, we are human.

“The only important thing to consider is if the person next to you is a good or bad.

“You have to recognise those who support hatred and tackle them.

“Do not allow genocide to happen to you as it happened to us, as it is still happening to us, the survivors.”

Tears fall under unapologetically blue skies as she plaintively asks, “Does anyone hear us crying still in Srebrenica?

“Share our story”, she begs, “make a difference.”