Jokes about Europe’s worst genocide since World War II aren’t exactly standard fare for television comedies. But a U.S. sitcom appears to have joked about the 1995 slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys during the Yugoslav wars — and Bosnians are outraged.
In an episode of The Odd Couple broadcast April 21 on the U.S. network CBS, one of the male characters invites a prospective date to a Serbian restaurant whose name sounds like A Taste Of Srebrenica. He mangles its pronunciation as well.
The reference is to the town where in 1995 more than 8,000 young Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically rounded up and killed by the Bosnian Serb Army.
The killings, whose memory is still painfully raw for many Bosnian Muslims, sparked international outrage and helped to spur forceful outside intervention to bring the Yugoslav wars of the early 1990s to an end.
In 2004, the United Nations tribunal prosecuting Yugoslav war crimes officially designated the Srebrenica events as “genocide.”
Since its airing, the episode has circulated widely among Bosnian communities in Europe and North America, with an outpouring of anger directed at the CBS network, the show’s writers, and its actors.
Hatidza Mehmedovic, who lives in Srebrenica and heads a group lobbying on behalf of the 6,000 survivors of the Srebrenica killings, said the show mocks the women who were dragged to such restaurants and raped by Bosnian Serb soldiers. Her husband, two sons, and two brothers died in the massacre.
“The more extreme something [is] the more it will be watched. The world has allowed this. Europe let it happen,” Mehmedovic told RFE/RL’s Balkan Service.
“Saying, ‘Let’s go visit that new Serbian restaurant, The Taste of Srebrenica,’ is analogous to saying something as horrendous as: ‘Let’s go visit that new German restaurant, The Taste of Auschwitz,'” the Congress of North American Bosniaks, which represents migrants and refugees from the former Yugoslav region, said in an open letter.
CBS did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment on the episode when contacted by RFE/RL on May 9.
In Bosnia itself, local media have also reported on the reference, with one news portal saying it was “the most primitive way” to insult Srebrenica victims.
Branka Antic Stauber, who lives in Tuzla and runs an NGO that works with Bosnian women who were raped during the war, called the reference “inhumane.” She said it was unclear exactly what the writer of the episode was trying to accomplish.
The Institute for Research of Genocide Canada, an Ontario-based research organization established by the University of Sarajevo, called the video a “terrible humiliation of the victims of Srebrenica.”