May 31st marks a painful chapter in Bosnian history. On May 31, 1992, after a forceful takeover of the municipal government in the town of Prijedor, Bosnia and Hezegovina, Bosnian Serb authorities issued a decree on local radio ordering all non-Serbian citizens to mark their houses with white flags or bedsheets and to wear white armbands when leaving the house.
This was the beginning of the campaign of extermination of the non-Serb population in Prijedor, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of 94% of the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat population from the Prijedor municipality. This was the first time since 1939 – when a Nazi decree required Polish Jews to wear white armbands with the Star of David on their sleeve – that members of an ethnic or religious group were marked for extermination in such a manner.
Approximately 3,176 people, including 103 children were killed in Prijedor, an estimated 31,000 were detained in concentration camps, and tens of thousands were forced to flee. In October 2013, one of the largest mass graves from the war in Bosnia was discovered at Tomasica in the Prijedor municipality, by the International Commission on Missing Persons which, according to witnesses, contains the remains of more than 1,000 Bosniak and Croat victims killed by Serb forces.
To this day, municipal authorities in Prijedor refuse to publicly acknowledge any of the crimes committed in the municipality, despite presence of numerous judgments by the international and domestic courts.
People all over the world mark May 31st by wearing a white armband as a way to remember and honor the victims of genocide. We invite you to stand in solidarity with the victims of human rights abuses in Prijedor and around the globe. Join us by wearing a white armband to symbolize your commitment to remembrance.