Bosnian Genocide Educational Trust was formally established in 2020 by Smajo Beso and Emily Scullion, both architects by profession, who met while teaching architecture at INTO Newcastle University.
Smajo came to the UK in July 1994 as a 9 year old refugee from Bosnia and had been sharing his story since 2017. Emily came to England in 2007 having grown up during The Troubles in Northern Ireland, initially to study architecture, later settling in the Northeast and establishing her own architectural practice.
Having worked closely together for several years and exchanging stories of their respective childhoods, they found many differences in their experiences of conflict but also a surprising familiarity and understanding of the legacy this had on their respective countries and on themselves as individuals. It quickly became apparent that, although they came to England under very different circumstances, they both shared a heightened awareness that peace is such a fragile state and that it is something that needs to be actively nurtured by society as a whole to be protected and maintained.
In both countries, Bosnia and Northern Ireland, the violence ended with peace agreements; The Dayton Agreement in Bosnia, and The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland however the agreements themselves reinforced segregation based on ethnic and religious identity. Both countries have been left with segregated schools, unique governmental structures, divided communities and struggles with identity and language. With the recent outbreaks of violence over Brexit in Northern Ireland and the continued Croat and Serb nationalist provocations in Bosnia, the relative peace in both countries is under serious threat. With this context, Smajo and Emily passionately believe that we must never take peace for granted and that there is no time like the present to take action.
One of the core motivations for establishing the Bosnian Genocide Educational Trust was out of the belief that we all have an individual responsibility to educate ourselves, and our younger generations, about the conflicts in our history to learn the implications of othering, segregation, and identity-based violence. Only through education and dialogue can we learn how to take action against allowing history to be repeated again.
Through the process of sharing their stories with each other, as well as Smajo sharing his story with so many people over the years, they realised the value of humanising history in this way. Using storytelling as a tool for education became the driving concept of the Trust, along with facilitating creative ways to engage with these stories, for all ages, to encourage personal acts of peace here in the UK.