From May to August of 1992, some 7,000 Bosnian Muslims were held in dire conditions at the Omarska Camp in the Prijedor region of Bosnia. With as many as 5,000 people dying from starvation, beatings, and other atrocities before the camp was closed on August 21, 1992, Omarska has since drawn comparison to the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.
In 2004, the site was purchased by the largest steel producer in the world, ArcelorMittal of Britain. At the time of acquisition, ArcelorMittal committed to both constructing a victims memorial on the site and granting regular access to survivors and victims’ families. Not only has no memorial been built, but on May 9, 2012, a group of survivors and researchers paying their respects were denied access to the site. Conversations with ArcelorMittal staff suggest that this denial was ordered by mayor Marko Pavic, who denies that Omarska was used for anything other than a “transit and interrogation center.”
UPDATE: The Associated Press reported Thursday that mayor Marko Pavic banned a demonstration by victims families and survivors in Prijedor. Bosnians around the country and the globe are wearing white arm bands to honor the victims and protest the ban.
The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience advocates for such sites of memory to serve as powerful tools in truth-telling and to foster dialogue connecting past and present toward the goal of ‘never again’. These sites help victims achieve acknowledgment of their suffering to engage the wider community in making change for the future. The absence of dialogue about Omarska, exeplified by the denial of access to survivors, demonstrates how refusal to deal with the past can widen existing rifts between communities and create new ones.
Turn memory into action. Lend your voice in the struggle to overcome Bosnia’s difficult past for a more peaceful future for all Bosnians. Sign the petition to demand that ArcelorMittal grant access to Omarska Camp for all survivors and victims.