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ZINA HASANOVIC TAKES OUT her most treasured possession, a picture of her husband, Haris. She smiles down at her year-old daughter, Lejla. “See, it’s Papa. Give him a kiss,” she says. The toddler grabs the photograph, kisses it and proudly says, “Papa.” Her grandmother weeps in the corner of their one-room home, which is shared by eight refugees from the Muslim village of Lehovici, outside Srebrenica. The women are teaching Lejla to say “Father” and “Uncle” and “Brother,” despite the fact that most of her male relatives are almost certainly dead.
They disappeared last July, when Bosnian Serb forces overran the Srebrenica enclave, which the United Nations had proclaimed a “safe haven.” The Serbs drove out the women and butchered the men, according to numerous eyewitness accounts, burying most of the bodies in mass graves. Officially, as many as 8,000 men from Srebrenica are still listed as missing. Zina Hasanovic is one of the few women to know exactly what happened to her husband. Haris was executed on a killing field in the village of Grbavci. As Serb bullets swept the tightly packed ranks of Muslim prisoners, Haris fell on top of Mevludin Oric, his first cousin and best friend. Mevludin lay there for hours, covered by bodies and blood, while the Serbs finished off the wounded. Then he escaped to tell Zina what had happened.
The beginning of Rod Nordland’s fascinating piece, “Death of a Village,” from the April 15, 1996 issue of Newsweek.