There are various conflicting accounts of the Bosnian genocide. The major narrative of the war is surrounded by the Bosnian Muslims being persecuted by the Bosnian Serbs. Following the declaration of independence by the republics of Yugoslavia in 1991 and 1992, three wars broke out. During this time, Bosnian Serbs began a campaign of “massacre and ethnic cleansing” throughout Bosnia (Totten 196). Bosnian Serbs put the capital city of Sarajevo under siege which led to the killing of thousands of civilians. Detention camps were put into place starting in 1992 where non-Serbs were tortured and killed, Muslims being the main targets. Both Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats fought against Bosnian Muslims. In 1995, the Bosnian Serb forces attacked the “safe-area” of Srebrenica and expelled Muslim women and children and killed thousands of Muslim men and “battle-ready” boys. It is the worst massacre on European soil since World War II. This event alarmed the international community and led to the United States intervening with air strikes against Serb forces. Finally, in 1995, Croatian, Muslim, and Serb representatives met in Dayton, Ohio and reached an agreement to end the conflict (Tottenm, 196).
Maass gives a concise overview of a possible cause of this atrocious event:
“In a February 29th, 1992, referendum, 99 percent of the ballots were cast in favor of independence, and Bosnia gained international recognition as a sovereign country. There was a catch, though. Most Serbs obeyed their nationalist leaders, who were puppets of Milosevic, and boycotted the poll. The argument against Bosnian independence was the same as it had been on Croatia: Serbs, as a minority, would be persecuted to the point of genocide. A month after the referendum, Serb paramilitary groups began their campaign of cleansing and conquest” (Maass 27).
Because Muslims were the majority group in Bosnia, Serbs felt insecure and threatened by the possibility of being persecuted by the majority. In turn, they reacted on the offensive and began to commit genocide against the Muslim majority.
However, it is important to recognize that there is another side to the narrative that includes the backlash of this conflict against the Bosniaks, in which Muslim Serbs in Muslim-controlled areas persecuted Serbs. This is the narrative represented in Savo Heleta's Not My Turn To Die, in which Heleta was a Serb living in Muslim-controlled Goražde, victim to discrimination, imprisonment, starvation, terror, and blatant neglect of basic human rights based on the fact that his family's ethnicity was shared with the people bombing Goražde. In these cities, Serbs' homes and churches were burned down and looted, sometimes after owners were expelled, sometimes intentionally while families were still in them. Many, if not most, victims of these crimes were innocent civilians, victims of vicious propaganda and polarizing racism as a result of the war, blamed for a war and genocide they took no part in carrying out.