WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Thousands of Bosnians now call Iowa home after war and genocide forced them to flee from their country 25 years ago.
Saturday marks the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide — a political power struggle as Serbia tried to take over portions of Bosnia. More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed. Those barely old enough to remember are now making sure this part of their history is never forgotten.
“I am so privileged for the opportunities that I have got because they were able to escape the war and come here for a new life in America,” said Nihad Ejubovic of West Des Moines.
Ejubovic was still in diapers when his parents and brother fled war-torn Bosnia in 1995. It took them five years before settling in Iowa.
Too young to remember, he relies on the stories from family to help educate others about Bosnian people’s reality – something he says isn’t well known or taught both here and in Europe.
“Just because I didn’t live through it, I still have a voice. I can use my platform to educate others around me and my colleagues and my friends that are not Bosnian about what my parents went through and continue that message that genocide did happen, it did occur. It is still happening today, just not in the form of killing but in the form of denial,” said Ejubovic.
The Bosniak American Association of Iowa is helping make sure their history is remembered and told.
“So many of the younger generation today in our community, they care about their country. They love Bosnia, they love its culture, its beauty and they want people to know that specific part of history that completely changed the entire nation,” said Amra Klempic, president of Bosniak American Association of Iowa.
That is why they say simply talking about it is a moral obligation, not only for the victims and survivors but to better understand the spirit of the Bosnian people.
“You had everything taken away from you there. Professors, doctors and lawyers — they essentially became the people that cleaned hotels, cleaned hospitals, their whole life got turned around, but they continue to prosper,” said Ejubovic. “It’s really that strength and prosperity where once your life has been turned around its easy to say ‘I’m done,’ but the Bosnian people had something more, and I’m so proud of the whole community.”
The Bosniak American Association of Iowa will hold a virtual peace walk and fundraiser on Saturday. Organizers are asking participants to walk, bike or run for 25 minutes. Proceeds from the fundraiser will be sent to three elementary schools in Srebrenica and will go toward school supplies and teaching about the genocide.