Srebrenica still haunts Muslims

December 2, 2005

When Selma Aljkanovic won a place at a madrassa eight years ago, she put on a Muslim headscarf for one of the happiest days of her sad and painful life, writes Kevin Weaver in Srebrenica.

Her only regret was that her father was not alive to see her graduate this year with the equivalent of a degree in English language and literature from Tuzla University. Her father is still missing after the July 1995 massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serbs after Srebrenica fell.

Bosnia has few teachers of English with a degree in the subject, and Ms Aljkanovic was encouraged to become a teacher. She says the most popular subjects at university are English language and literature, pedagogy and psychology, law and journalism. But many graduates are unemployed, or have gone abroad.

That she gained a degree is a minor miracle. After her father was killed, she and her brother, sister and mother lived with an aunt and her children in a tiny flat. She studied while the family slept. She then moved to a village near Tuzla. She received a two-year scholarship from an Islamic organisation, a loan for her third year and a small grant from the municipality for her final year. Her mother had to borrow money for books, bus tickets and fees.

Tuzla is regarded as second only to Sarajevo University. But despite its extensive library there are only six computers with constant net access.

Ms Aljkanovic said Muslims were discriminated against in Serb-dominated Srebrenica. "Muslim children have to read and write in Cyrillic, to learn the changed history of those who killed their loved ones and basically be like Serbs. I don't think I will ever be able to live there again. When I went there after ten years, the view of those ruins crushed me. They stole my happiness, my future."

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Reader's comments (1)

I believe I know Selma and wanted to know how she is faring today.