Protected Witness

„I Crawled Under the Dead“

This story is about a man born in Srebrenica in 1960, who was captured along with other men and transferred to a school in Petkovci, where he witnessed mass executions and murders. Although wounded during the shooting, he saved himself by falling under the dead bodies, which protected him from certain death. He managed to escape and reach free territory. He testified in court as a protected witness.

On the morning of July 14th, they brought us water in some buckets that we had to drink. That water was white, I think it was poisoned. Our mouths became increasingly dry from that water, and I saw people showing signs of madness after drinking it. For a full 24 hours, no one could move out of the trucks. In the afternoon, they told us we were going to Batković camp. The trucks started towards Zvornik. Serbian soldiers pointed their guns at the trucks. I knew the way and saw that we were coming to Zvornik. There, Serbian women and children greeted us with stones and bottles. From there, we went on towards Karakaj and the Glinice factory. However, we passed by the factory and turned left (there was still asphalt). We didn't drive long and stopped at a school.

Immediately, panic and uproar ensued, and the soldiers began shooting at us. When I was getting out of the truck, I saw that there was a garage with metal doors on the right side. We passed in line in front of the Serbian army, and they beat each of us individually. We had to sing "Srebrenica is Serbian, long live the Serbian state," among other things. We had to keep our hands behind our necks. When I entered the school, I saw that the entrance read "Petkovci Elementary School."

People were drinking their own urine

We went upstairs. The classrooms were full of captured Srebrenicans. When I entered, I saw two beaten men lying on the floor. They were covered in blood and showed no signs of life. The windows in the classrooms were closed. We sat down next to each other on the tiles. There, they interrogated and tortured us again. They demanded money and threatened to slaughter anyone who didn't give money. Gunfire could be heard outside all night. We couldn't go out.

People asked for water, but they did not give us any. They started to beat and torture us. People were again forced to drink their own urine. All this happened on the evening of July 14th. They started shouting for us to come out in groups of four. People went out and did not return. My neighbor Salih did not come back either; I just heard a gunshot. I felt sick, so I approached the window to get some air because it was stuffy and suffocating in the room. That's probably when I fainted. When I came to, I saw that in the classroom of 200 people, only about twenty remained. That's when I saw that one of those beaten was my cousin, Munib Ademović. He had recovered a bit but was all in blood. It was my turn to go out as they were calling us. I went out with Kadrija Bećirević.

In the hallway, four Chetniks stood. They cursed our Bosniak mother and ordered us to strip to the waist. There, I undressed and placed all my documents on a pile. My diploma, driver's license, health insurance card, and other documents were there. We put our clothes on another pile. Our pants pockets had to be turned inside out. We also had to take off our shoes and socks. They tied our hands behind our backs and beat us again.

They threw us into another classroom that was dark. There, I recognized many neighbors - Pilav Zaim, his son Azem... None of them were seen again. They kept us there for some time with our hands tied behind our backs. Later, during the night, they started loading us onto a truck naked, barefoot, and with our hands bound. We ran down the stairs and through the hallway. I saw many dead bodies and blood in the hallways. As we started climbing into the truck that was parked next to the school stairs, they began hitting us on the back and shooting at our legs. Many people were wounded there. They told us that Silajdžić (a Bosnian politician) would take us dead or wounded.

I Crawled Under the Dead

They were probably thinking about some kind of body exchange. Kadrija Bećirević was also wounded there. The truck started moving. We stood in it, side by side, with our hands tied. It was packed full; we were falling over each other without any support. The truck stopped. I saw that the terrain was lit up. They ordered us to get off the truck. I saw that a mass of slain people lay across the entire field.

They ordered us to fall to the ground. I saw that about a dozen people with socks on their heads held automatic weapons. I just remember that it suddenly got loud again, I didn't know what it was or where it was coming from. I fell among those who had been killed earlier while others fell on me. I felt gunpowder and small stones burning around my legs. Fully aware of what was going to happen, I crawled deeper under the dead. I felt something warm running down my face, which was turned towards the ground.

I knew I was wounded but I still tried to save myself. I heard people around me gurgling and moaning in pain. The gunfire stopped suddenly, I heard a new order and new shots and bursts of fire. I don't remember how long it lasted because I fainted. When I regained consciousness, I heard them calling out to each other by name and talking. "Hit him! A short burst in the head! Simo, if you could see what a terrifying skeleton he has!" They cursed our Bosniak mother. One of them came up to me, kicked me in the head, and said I was dead. That's when I lost consciousness again.

I don't know how long I lay there. All of this still happened during the night of July 14th. When I regained consciousness, the first thing I felt was pain in my hands, which were tied, and the wire had already made wounds on my wrists. I immediately thought of my family and tried to stand up to save myself. However, I couldn't stand up because several other bodies were lying on and around me, and there was a loud gurgling of blood. As I tried to get up, I heard a voice calling out. He said he had also survived. The Chetniks were not shooting anymore. Since dawn was breaking, they thought they had killed everyone and dispersed, drunk and drugged as they were. We were just waiting for the loader to come and pick up the bodies.

The bodies were thrown into a waste water dam

When I heard that voice, I felt relieved. I immediately shouted for him to come to me if he could. That guy crawled over to me. I asked him to try to untie me. Since his hands were also tied, I first untied his hands. I asked him to try to untie me, but he responded that he couldn’t because I had two strands of wire on me.

We saw the headlights of machines that started collecting the dead. As soon as I heard the sound of the machinery and a tractor with a trailer, I told the guy to lift me up and that we should run. We went from corpse to corpse. There were other living people, but they were more seriously injured. We managed to reach the nearby forest still tied, barefoot, and naked to the waist. When we entered the forest, we came across a deeper ditch filled with red sludge. We found two stones, and I told the guy to try to cut the wires on my hands by hitting stone against stone. He did it and freed my hands.

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