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July 11 marks the 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, the worst atrocity on European soil since the Holocaust.

In July, 1995, Serb forces systematically killed more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys in the so-called UN-protected enclave in Srebrenica, Bosnia.

But what led to the massacre?

In the nineties, genocide scholar Gregory H Stanton, an American, examined the stages of genocide, which eventually became his “10 stages of genocide” theory.

Genocide is not committed by a small group of individuals, rather a large number of people and the state all contribute to genocide.

At each stage preventive measures can stop the situation from deteriorating further, Stanton noted.

Bosnian-Australian anthropologist Hariz Halilovic later added an eleventh stage particular to Bosnia’s case – “trumphalism”.

Here is how Stanton’s 10 stages – and Halilovic’s eleventh – relate to the Srebrenica genocide:

Stages 1, 2, 3: Classification, symbolization and discrimination

The idea of a Greater Serbia (including the territories of Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia, Montenegro and other neighbouring countries) dates back to the 19th century, and was revived following the death of Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito in 1980.

With the decline of the Communist bloc, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Serbian nationalists saw a chance to mobilise the masses in support of establishing a homogenous Serbian state.

In Milosevic’s famous address to a crowd in Belgrade in 1989, he presented himself as the savior of Serbdom and Europe. It enforced the notion of “us [Serbs] vs them”.

Bosniaks were typically called Turks, Balije (a slur for a Bosnian Muslim) and branded as terrorists and Islamic “extremists”.

Stage 4: Dehumanisation

Many Serbs dehumanised Bosniaks, regarding them as little more than Muslims who posed a threat to the Serbian hegemonist project.

“In order to mobilise domestic public opinion against the Muslims and to justify future acts against them in the eyes of the West, the Serbian leadership needed an image of Islam as a totalitarian, inherently violent, and culturally alien system on European soil,” writes Fikret Karcic, professor at the University of Sarajevo, in his paper “Distorted Images of Islam: the case of former Yugoslavia.” Read more

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