Remembering the Courage of Bosnia’s Women

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Seida Saric – Huffington Post – Friday, 04 November 2011 (originally published 27 Oct)

Nearly twenty years ago, the country I called home, Bosnia and Herzegovina, descended into a brutally violent and destructive war, one that shredded the fabric of our society and forever altered the lives of the survivors. For the women who lived through the Bosnian War, the atrocities and genocide perpetrated against them was also a war against memory, an attempt to destroy a group of people, hide the evidence, and silence the victims through intimidation or death. But the women did not forget, nor did they remain silent.

Earlier this month, the women of Bosnia and Herzegovina reminded the world that their memories have not faded, and that they will bravely continue to pursue justice. I Came to Testify, the first of the five-part PBS series Women, War, and Peace, shared the stories of the women of Foča, who were forced into rape camps by Serbian military forces, and who stood before the International Criminal Tribunal to face their attackers and tell the world what they had done to them. For the 16 women who came to testify, their victory was more than the triumph of the human spirit over adversity — their trial redefined how we understand rape in the context of war, and made it possible to prosecute those who rape for war crimes.

The bravery of these women, who risked retaliation and worse for speaking the truth about the horrors done to them by their neighbors reminds me of the more than 20,000 women in Bosnia and Herzegovina who will never have their day in court and who live with the physical and emotional scars of what nearly destroyed them. And yet, these women work every day to rebuild their and their family’s lives with a courage and determination that is nothing short of inspiring. I am reminded of Safeta, a young mother who participated in Women for Women International’s program after the war. One night during the war, Safeta was kidnapped by her neighbors from her home in Busovaca and taken to an abandoned house in her town. There, she was repeatedly raped and tortured by those same neighbors. Before her attackers left, Safeta overheard one of them tell the others not to kill her, because she would kill herself . . .

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