Parents of 102 children who were killed or went missing in Prijedor during the 1992-95 war launched a campaign urging the local authorities to finally erect a memorial in the town.
The parents said they would hold a protest march on Saturday and collect signatures for a petition in support of their campaign for a memorial, which has so far not been permitted by the local authorities in Prijedor, a town in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity.
“No one protected our children during the war, but today, we, the parents of those children, expect all the citizens of Prijedor to join us in this just demand, no matter which side they were on back then,” said Fikret Bacic, whose two children were killed in the village of Zecovi near Prijedor in 1992.
“We want the memorial to be a reminder to future generations that no one should kill children in our [town of] Prijedor and remain unpunished,” he added.
After the march, which is to be held on the anti-violence White Ribbon Day, the parents will lay roses in the main town square with the names of the 102 children who were killed.
The parents argued that wartime fighters had been commemorated with memorials but not child victims.
“More than ten monuments to war vetarans have been erected in the centre of Prijedor since the end of the war, but none for the killed children,” they said in a statement.
They also noted that the remains of 12 boys aged between 15 and 17 had recently been found at the nearby Tomasica mine, which could prove to be the biggest wartime mass grave ever discovered in the country.
During the war in Prijedor, more than 3,000 non-Serbs were killed, while thousands were imprisoned in nearby detention camps. Campaign groups have accused local Serb authorities of obstructing attempts by Bosniaks and Croats to commemorate the deaths of their relatives.
White Ribbon Day was first marked in Prijedor two years ago when a local man called Emir Hodzic defied a ban by the local authorities on commemorations of non-Serb victims and stood in the main town square with a white ribbon tied around his arm.
May 31 was the day in 1992 when the Bosnian Serbs who had taken control of Prijedor issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they left their houses.
Former detainees at the Trnopolje jail camp near Prijedor also held their own commemoration on Monday.