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Wales must be more tolerant and help others in need - message from AMs after Bosnian genocide visit

Wales needs to show more tolerance towards different cultures and help others in need around the world. That's the verdict of a group of AMs who have returned from a visit to Srebrenica in Bosnia. Back in 1995 over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims where killed there after Serbian forces embarked on an ethnic cleansing policy of the local population.

The AMs heard from Nedzad Avdic who was 17 years old during the atrocity and managed to survive after being taken for dead by Serb forces. He still lives there and spoke of his anguish.

AMs meeting Nedzad Avdic who survived the massacre. Credit: ITV News

I was hit on my right side and in my hand but I was left for dead. Later soldiers left us and by accident I survived. I live here in Srebrenica as I returned 12 years after the war. Almost every day I visit here (the memorial) and when I saw many of my neighbours, relatives and friends here with their names on the stones it's very very difficult for me.

– Nedzad Avdic

In 1995 Bosnia was in the middle of a civil following its declaration of independence after the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serb forces laid siege to the nation's capital Sarajevo in their bid to control the country and embarked on a policy of ethnic cleansing in Serb-dominated areas. This resulted in many Bosnian Muslims in the region heading to Srebrenica because it was designated a safe area by the UN. But, in July 1995, Dutch peacekeepers failed to stop Serb forces moving into the area.

The Serb forces began systematically separating women and children from the men and later killed over 8000 male Muslims in the worst act of genocide in Europe since the Second World War. Some senior Serb leaders have been convicted of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague in the Netherlands. The most high-profile case was that of Radovan Karadizic the leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison after being convicted of ordering the genocide.

The group from Wales included former Deputy Presiding Officer of the Assembly David Melding, Newport West AM Jayne Bryant and Joyce Watson, who represents Mid and West Wales.

David Melding AM laying a reath at the memorial site in Potocari. Credit: ITV News

I've asked many people I've met here, why? The answer I've had is because somebody thought they were better than somebody else and that difference mattered. But what I say is we must live with each other not next to each other.

– Joyce Watson AM

The visit was part of the Remembering Srebrenica project which seeks to commemorate those lost and educate future generations about the consequences of hatred. As part of the scheme a Wales-specific information pack will now be available to all schools in Wales in a bid to raise awareness of events in Bosnia over 20 years ago. According to David Melding, who's behind the idea, there are very real lessons for us in Wales from what happened in Srebrenica.

The pack has been produced so we can promote knowledge of the conflict in Wales but then stress how important it is to work for peace and tolerance and just societies.

– David Melding AM

More information about the project can be found on their website, www.srebrenica.org.uk.