When I started collecting photos of the people killed in Srebrenica, the task at first seemed like a clerical one.
I looked for names, birthdates, and anything else that would help me sort through the records.
In a way it was a microcosm of the Bosnian war itself. Everyone knew the names of the first victims as Yugoslavia disintegrated into interethnic chaos in 1991. But as the war continued over the next few years, names turned to numbers. As humanity seemed to disappear, so did any semblance of personhood.
But then I started to look at the faces.
A lot of them reminded me of the people I knew. I noticed that most of the pictures were grouped together -- dads and their boys, brothers and their nephews. The stacks represented the atrocity itself: Fathers killed while looking for their sons
and children grasping futilely for a paternal hand.
We all know that over several days in July, 1995, more than 8,000 men and boys were exterminated in an area that the UN had promised would be a "safe haven" for Bosnian Muslims.
We know that 20 years ago Europe failed to live up to its promise to "never again" allow a genocide to take place on its soil.
But the humanity that was lost over those 10 days remains opaque.
By collecting these photos, in a sense we are working backwards. We are helping to reclaim identities that too often have been reduced to checkmarks on the inventory list of a mass grave.
In each of the thousands of pictures below is a human being with a history. And a future cut short.
But if pictures can tell a story, so too does the fact that so many are missing. At some 2,400 photos this is the largest collection of Srebrenica victims ever compiled in one place, yet there are more than 5,000 people who are not pictured here.
Some of the NGOs I worked with on this project already had photos, but others called in family members to help me collect them.
I was at Majke Podrinja, a victims' organization based in Sarajevo, surrounded by the wives, mothers, and daughters of some of the deceased. They could all provide vivid accounts of those dreadful days, but not all of them had photos. Some would
have a picture of one dead son but not of the other. Others would have images of their lost loves, but pictured far younger than they were when they died.
When Bosnian Serb forces took over Srebrenica and its surrounding area the men and boys of military age -- as young as 14 -- went on the run while women and children were forced away on buses, leaving all of their former lives behind.
Stripped of their fathers and husbands and brothers, many of those who survived the massacre live to this day without so much as a photo to remember those they lost.
-- Dzenana Halimovic. July, 2015
Photos and names collected by
Cover photo by
Additional background photos by Midhat Poturovic
Special thanks to Mothers of Srebrenica, Women of Srebrenica, Women of Podrinje, Mothers of Podrinja and the Movement of the Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves, who helped in the collection of photos.