““The old man on the bridge, who whispers….
How can this happen
Here, of all places, where we’re so humane?”
Semezdin Mehmedinovic, Bosnian poet (1960-)
The work of our trust, including governance and strategic vision of our work, is overseen by a board of Trustees. Our Trustees come from a range of backgrounds and work closely with our advisors; partners and volunteers to ensure we successfully achieve our aims and vision.
Smajo Beso (Chair)
At the outbreak of the Bosnian war in 1992 Smajo was growing up in the ethnically mixed village of Barane, above the town of Stolac, eastern Herzegovina. He experienced the occupation of his village by Serbs who, briefly, took control of Stolac. Local Bosniaks (Muslims) and Bosnian-Croats under the Croatian led HVO led to their expulsion, but the situation deteriorated when in April 1993 the HVO, under political direction, imprisoned the Bosniak (Muslim) contingent of its own army, forcibly expelling Bosniaks and Serb civilians under its control.
Smajo witnessed the destruction by Croat forces of the historic Ottoman core of Stolac as well as extensive damage to Mostar, including its historic ‘Old Bridge’ (Stari Most), where the family were in internal exile. This systematic destruction of cultural identity and architectural heritage is a subject he is further exploring through his teaching and research at Newcastle University.
The family rejected feelings of hate and the temptations of revenge and eventually found refuge in the UK. Smajo grew up in Newcastle and studied architecture at Newcastle University. He worked in private practice for several years before commencing teaching at the university. He has been working to aid cross-cultural and inter-faith understanding rather than fuelling revenge and divergence through the teaching and learning of the Bosnian Genocide for several years. He is on the Remembering Srebrenica Survivor Advisory board as well as the chair of the North East Board. He is also part of the University of Sanctuary Working Group for Newcastle University.
Gordon Bacon OBE (Honorary President)
Gordon Bacon became an Emergency Aid Worker in the war-torn Balkans in 1992, as head of a British charity, Feed the Children. He would go on to spend almost 20 years in aid-related work, most of it in the Balkans but also in Georgia (post conflict), Sri Lanka (twice – after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami and towards the end of the civil war 2009) and Myanmar (after Cyclone Nargis in 2008).
While working in Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo, as well as carrying out emergency aid relief work during the wars he was involved in post conflict activities. In October 1998 he was appointed Country Director for the USA NGO, International Rescue Committee (IRC) and in August ’00 he was asked to head-up the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). While at ICMP he was asked by Lord Paddy Ashdown to represent the International Community of a Commission, which was to be set up by the Government of the Republika Srpska, looking into the events of the Srebrenica Genocide, which occurred in July 1995.
Gordon was born in Newcastle and grew up in Sunderland. When he left Bede Grammar School at 17 years he became a Durham Constabulary Police Cadet, joining the regular Force at 19. He had a varied Police career including beat duty, traffic patrols, Serious Incident Squad and Regional Crime Squad. In 1977, when a Detective Sergeant, he went on secondment to the then British Colony of Hong Kong as an Investigator with the Independent Commission Against Corruption. He returned to Durham Constabulary in 1984 and retired as an Inspector in 1988, and took up a position as Group Security Office for a national company.
Emily Scullion (Trustee)
Having grown up in Northern Ireland, Emily has experienced how hatred can divide communities and how war can permeate society. Emily’s childhood is marked by bomb scares set by paramilitary troops, army check points close to her family home and the dull hangover The Troubles left on the lives of many. Northern Ireland has still not recovered, there are still divisions in societies of Belfast and the memories of the lives lost are still so close. For this reason, Emily is passionate about supporting education on the history of Bosnia.
Emily believes through our grief and anger, there are lessons to be learned for our younger generations. “There must be time spent teaching about our errors, our mistakes, to provide a brighter, more peaceful future for our innocent youth.”
Emily is a qualified architect who runs her own architectural practice based in the North East of England, working nationally as well as in Ireland. Emily carries her passion for a fair and inclusive society in both her practice work and teaching career, promoting the role of women in a male-dominated industry and actively strives to encourage and empower other females in the industry.
Andy Lie (Trustee)
Andy Lie is a Singaporean of Indonesian-Chinese origin and has live with his family in the UK since 1986. He is currently the Ecumenical & Inter-Faith Officer for the Northern Synod of the United Reformed Church. Although he had addressed church congregations on several occasions during the annual Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January), he began and has continued his serious engagement with the tragic history and issues of Bosnia-Herzegovina since a 2018 intensive educational visit to Stolac, Mostar, Sarajevo, and Srebrenica.
Andy has maintained a special interest in inter-religious affairs throughout his working life, including the NHS, higher education, and the voluntary-community sector. In 2015-16, he spent three months on a human rights monitoring programme in the much-troubled city of Bethlehem in the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2019, he participated in an intensive 10-day seminar for Church Leaders at Yad Vashem, the International Holocaust Study Centre in Jerusalem.
Emlyn Pearce (Trustee)
Emlyn Pearce is a writer who was born in South Africa in 1982, where his parents and grandparents were antiapartheid activists. His grandmother, Anna Pearce, was the first white person to testify against the apartheid government in a South African court at the inquiry into the Paarl riots in 1962. Her activism, and the eventual peaceful dismantling of apartheid, has had a profound effect on his writing.
When he was 12, Emlyn’s family emigrated to Durham in the UK. He read English Literature at Warwick University and then moved to London where he worked in charity fundraising and produced and presented interactive television for broadcasters in the UK, Nigeria and South Africa. Since 2019 he has been writing a book with Smajo Bešo about his experiences in Bosnia during the war.
Emlyn’s writing has been featured by the BBC, Buzzfeed, The Daily Mirror, The Sun, LADbible, The Poke, The Huffington Post, Metro, The Manchester Evening News, Pink News, Attitude Magazine and the Independent. His Facebook blog, based on the belief that our differences are just a reminder of how much we need each other, has 50,000 followers.
Maryyum Mehmood (Trustee)
A firm believer in community cohesion, Maryyum has over a decade of experience in interfaith dialogue. She is the Centre Facilitator at the Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion, University of Birmingham, and Research Associate at St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford.
Maryyum holds a PhD in responses to racial and religious stigmatisation from the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. Through her YouTube channel The SHIFT with Maryyum, she curates content to increase religious literacy and foster social harmony.