I went back to Zvornik 20 years after the war and tried to rebuild our house. When they were digging through remnants of the house, the builders dug out a plastic toy shovel. A young man ran happily towards me showing me the toy. That blue shovel is the only thing I have for sure that I played with as a child and it survived. When I saw it, I felt like I was in a vacuum, all my memories, emotions, everything was floating around and materialised right in front of me. It was like magic.
The moment Srebrenica fell we ceased to be humans, we became victims, widows, rape survivors, torture survivors, refugees – our humanity was stripped away. We were never acknowledged as humans capable of feeling other emotions aside from despair, pain and dark emotions. The first face you would meet someone with is a label, as a torture or rape survivor but there is a human being behind these labels who make mistakes. Give them the benefit of the doubt, people are capable of laughing despite their pain, their existence is not justified through this experience. We are defined by our future not our past.