Very few people know who he was, indeed most Bosnians and Herzegovinians (for whom he did what he did) don´t know who Graham Bamford was but on April 29 1993 at the height of massacres, ethnic cleansing, systematic sexual violence and all the other horrors of the Bosnian genocide, he stood in front of the House of Commons in London and poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire as a way of drawing attention to the suffering of the Bosnian people. He was 48 years old at the time and had one child. Reportedly, his final words were: “The British must stop the war in Bosnia, even by force, if necessary. The British army does not (only) have to be a guardian of honor at mass funerals. Bosnian babies, children, and women are patiently waiting for the politicians to do what they know they need to do – acquire military protection. They should not stand aside and calmly observe”.
Bamford had been very moved by images coming first from Croatia and then from the carnage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to testimony from his friends and acquaintances and his psychologist, he saw his own daughter in every victim from Bosnia and Herzegovina. What drew him to finally act was the HVO massacre in Ahmici in April 1993, where 116 men, women and children were killed.
But it wasn´t until 2009 that the city of Sarajevo gave him some of the recognition he deserved by naming an award after him, an award given to Bosnian and foreign citizens and individuals for “acts of civic courage, solidarity, humanity and altruism.” Be that as it may, to this day most Bosnians and Herzegovinans don´t know of Bamford and his ultimate sacrifice. Plans for a memorial in his honor were in the works but it has thus far not been realised. In the meantime people like Milan Bandic (later revoked) and the utterly inept ( go ahead, tell me I’m wrong) Valentin Inzko have been named honorary citizens of Sarajevo. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not honouring this man properly.
It´s long overdue that he receives the recognition he deserves. One can of course question his actions, if it was too much, and if there maybe have been better ways to protest the horrors of the Bosnian war? If his actions brought even more pain to his family? Nevertheless, it happened and we should at least properly honor his sacrifice. It`s really as much about us as it is about him. Failure to properly acknowledge Bamfords ultimate sacrifice while at the same time awarding people like Inzko and Bandic, and others (however much the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina disagree with those politically motivated awards) says a lot about the current state of things. We need to rise above it, or finally admit to ourselves that we really aren’t as wonderful as we like to tell ourselves, and that thru our silence we are very much complicit in what has been going on.
Trailer for a documentary about Bamford written and directed by Croatian director Nenad Puhovski, called: Graham and I- A True Story ( Graham i ja)