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War/conflict, Human Rights
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Genocide, Bosnia, Serbia
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From 1992 to 1995 during the Bosnian war, more than 30,000 people were killed, and of those, 3,000 were killed in Visegrad. Approximately 800 bodies were thrown in Lake Perucac. The project documents the exhumation of the victims by family members from this lake, which flooded because the search ended.
Dijana Muminovic

2013 — student runner-up

At the age of 12, I survived the Bosnian war hiding in basements, where I listened to the stories of slaughter. Since moving to America, I have met Bosnian Muslim women living in Kentucky, who still wait to find the bodies of their sons and husbands who were killed 20 years ago.

Their stories brought me back to Bosnia. In 2010, I accompanied researchers from the Missing Persons Institute (MPI), to Lake Perucac in the city of Visegrad. I was overwhelmed when I realized that thousands of bodies lay beneath the water. But I felt the necessity to document this in order to show why the women around the world wait for so long for their loved ones to be found.

Only in the last century we have seen genocides in Germany, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia and Guatemala. In 20 years, 500 different mass graves have been discovered in Bosnia. In this particular case, thousands may never find their loved ones.

The nearby dam in a predominantly Serbian town, on the border with Visegrad, began fixing the turbines which caused Lake Perucac to dry. The MPI began a massive search with hundreds of volunteers to find the missing bodies from 1992. Sadly, the lake was flooded before the search was completed. Another injustice was done upon those who not only lost their loved ones, but now lost hope of ever finding them. It felt as if the war that ended for me, was still going on for thousands of others, even two decades after.

From 1992 to 1995 during the Bosnian war, more than 30,000 people were killed, and of those, 3,000 were killed in Visegrad. Approximately 800 bodies were thrown in Lake Perucac.

I stood at the Lake Perucac, watching the water float over the areas people dug the ground just a day before. I thought about the women I met in Kentucky. I thought about those I watched with shovels in their hands, and I thought of all the Somali people who feel close to Bosnia because of this instance, knowing they all were waiting for a closure, and not knowing if they will ever find it.

In the next year, I will visit the hydropower station, as well as the identification for missing person offices. I will work with more closely with the MPI to gather in-depth statistics for a book about Lake Perucac. My work will once again be exhibited in the US Congress, Western Kentucky University and museums in Bosnia.

The story about Lake Perucac will serve as a grim example of genocide and show the mess it has left decades later. It is my hope the story will educate others to help promote this issue, only so to help bring peace to our communities.

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Admir Sabanovic, 30, at the Lake Perucac, searching for his father that was killed in 1992 during the attack of Visegrad. Sabanovic’s father was found two months later in a forest, an hour away from the lake. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Medical Science Doctor, Hamza Zujo, walks by the flags put next to the bones found in Lake Peru?ac, Sept. 22, 2010. “This is the most humane job,” Dr. Zujo says about volunteers who came to help. “But I think there should be more volunteers to help speed up the process.” Dr. Zujo said that he’s expecting a lot of blood samples. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Admir Sabanovic looks into the classroom of an elementary school. "This used to be a concentration camp I was locked in." Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Goran Micic, left, shows an ID to Admir Sabanovic, right, that was found in a pit while searching for remains of Sabanovic’s father who was killed in 1992. With the help of few friends, the MPI, and the ICMP, Sabanovic was able to find bones of his father.  The ID belonged to the man found with Sabanovic’s father; father of Adisa Karisik who volunteered at Lake Peru?ac. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Forensic Anthropologist, Dragana Vucetic, at the Tuzla Identification Coordination Division (ICD) July 9, 2010. The ICMP has helped exhuming bodies from Lake Peru?ac. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
"This is my uncles's house that was never finished," explains Dalila Velic of Visegrad, Bosnia. Hundreds of houses are unfinished or destroyed from the war that happened from 1992-1995 in Bosnia. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Women In Black of Serbia, hold roses during an anniversary in Visegrad, in memorial to the 3,000 people killed in the war. Amidst the continued tension between ethnicities, the Women In Black of Serbia are one group trying to reach out a hand between the communities. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Many volunteers visited lake Perucac in city Visegrad, Bosnia, to help with the search of the missing persons killed and thrown in the lake in 1992 during the Bosnian war. The volunteers and the International Commission for the Missing Persons (ICMP) found 348 bones in the dried ground in three months. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Women during the 15th Srebrenica Genocide anniversary in Potocari. Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation
Two months after the Lake Perucac was flooded, and the search for remains of people who were killed and thrown in the lake, wasn't complete, Samir Sabanija, investigator for the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina, revisits the place where he spent 74 days searching. "Just on my left side, a helicopter used to land." Dijana Muminovic/Alexia Foundation