Event – Remembering Srebrenica – 10th July 2-4pm Brent Civic Centre

During the Balkans conflict of 1992-1995, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica was declared a UN Safe Area in 1993, under the watch of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR).

In July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town, despite its designation as an area “free from any armed attack or any other hostile act”.

In the days following Srebrenica’s fall, more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred and buried in mass graves. Thousands of women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported and a large number of women were raped. It was the greatest atrocity on European soil since the Second World War.

This July we will be marking this day, remembering what happened and ensuring that the lessons and rejection of hatred is something we take with us into the future.

Please join us at the Brent Civic Centre to hear from survivors of the Genocide.

Have Your Say on Parking in Brent

Residents, schools and businesses are all being encouraged to take part in a borough-wide consultation on proposed changes to how on-street parking is managed in Brent.

With significant pressure on demand for parking spaces across the borough, we are seeking the views of everyone in Brent on how the demand for parking spaces can be better managed. A consultation questionnaire was launched earlier today (13 April 2016) so you can have your say.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, Brent Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment, said:

“Parking is always a hot issue. We only have 33,000 car parking spaces for the 56,000 homes in controlled parking zones in the borough, which creates huge pressure. This wide-ranging consultation is a real opportunity to address the problem.”

“We’re committed to making Brent a borough that is accessible for everyone. Finding ways of better managing on-street parking will ensure that people who need a parking space can find one.

“Through this consultation, residents, businesses, schools and visitors alike can have their say on proposals for managing demand for spaces.

“We want to work with residents, businesses and schools to shape up a new approach that will encourage the use of more sustainable transport where possible, keep traffic moving and continue our efforts to improve air quality across the borough.

“Your views will be vital in helping Cabinet decide on the way forward. I’m keen to hear a wide range of opinions and would encourage anyone who would like to have their say to do so before the consultation closes in May.”

The consultation will end on 10 May 2016.

Uniting against hate

In March I travelled to Bosnia with the charity ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ in my role as Lead Member for ‘Stronger Communities’ in Brent. It was both a shocking and sobering visit. To learn about the horrors that happened in Srebrenica, just a two hour flight from London, is a powerful reminder of why we must reject those who practice the politics of division, intolerance and hate.

As someone who grew up in Brent, which has the most diverse population in Britain, it was particularly poignant. Here we celebrate our diversity and see it as a strength but one that we must continually fight to protect and preserve.

An estimated 8,000 people from the town of Srebrenica were killed in a 72-hour period back in 1995. The youngest victim was reportedly a two day old baby who was found with multiple gunshots to the head. After the Holocaust we said ‘never again’ but in Bosnia there were both concentration camps and mass slaughter on religious lines.

The visit was part of a delegation organised by the charity ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ of Councillors and practitioners from the police, academia and armed forces from across the country. Over three days we visited the graveyards of those who were killed and met with survivors and their families. Dr Waqar Azmi OBE, Chairman of ‘Remembering Srebrenica’ which has taken over 950 people out to visit the site over the past three years, explained that the purpose of the delegations were for people to see the “consequences of hatred and take ownership of that knowledge”. One survivor of the war told us how he’d witnessed “what man does to another man that an animal would never do to another member of its species”.

Community cohesion means a rejection of hate of any sort. We must not, we cannot sit quietly. A Bosnian photographer who chronicled the Genocide in Srebrenica urged members of the delegation to “take a bit of our pain and teach people about it’. On the visit, terrible story followed terrible story. People were killed for having Muslim names. A survivor who was tortured by his own former teacher wrote that ‘war unleashes a beast within all of us’. A former Bosnian soldier told me that “where logic ends, Bosnia begins”. One survivor we met was 17 years old when the massacre happened. He was captured and shot three times in the stomach and once in the arm. He managed to escape but such was its trauma that he only went public with his story twenty years after the event.

Across England and Wales, hate crime rose by 18 per cent from 2014-2015. In Brent, Islamophobic attacks increased eight-fold last December compared to the same month in 2014 following the terrorist atrocity in Paris last year. Thankfully these numbers are still very low and our Borough Police Commander, Chief Superintendent Michael Gallagher, is right to explain that “the rise in these offences is due to Muslims feeling empowered to come forward and communicate with police. The Muslim community is very well integrated here and the main thing is for people to be alert but not alarmed.”

However, we must all be alert to attempts to divide our communities and challenge those who do so. I look forward to working with Brent residents to mark ‘Remembering Srebrenica Day’ on July 10 this year in Brent Civic Centre. Last year we launched a pioneering ‘Stronger Communities’ strategy that set out a vision for tackling complex challenges such as hate crime, radicalisation and child sexual exploitation by working with communities and residents, alongside professionals within the statutory services, to develop a community-based approach. Later this year we look to host Louise Casey, who has been commissioned by the government to look into integration, in the Borough as part of a day long workshop looking at these issues. In Brent we love where we live and are determined to show the country the way in demonstrating our stronger communities.

Cllr James Denselow, Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities