Response to the MADRE Courage Tour on Rape
25 March 1993
Transcribed by k.mihalec
Copies of this fax were distributed to a few people during the MADRE Courage Tour in Toronto, on March 1993. It is a response to the guest speakers, Vesna Kesic and Lepa Mladjenovic, and the MADRE Tour in general.
Form: Bosnian and Croatian Women's and Refugee Organizations
Kareta Feminist Group
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel/fax: 38 41 414 834
Refugee Women's Group
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel: 38 41 334 929
fax: 38 41 334 498
of Women of Bosnia-Hercegovina
(now in exile in Croatia)
tel/fax: 38 41 225 519
Bedem Ljubavi Women's Group
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel: 38 41 451 056
fax: 38 41 451 861
We are troubled that MADRE has not consulted Bosnian and Croatian women's groups, which through long and dedicated work with survivors and some members being survivors are the most knowledgable about and representative of this issue. Most of our members and members of these other groups literally work 17 hour days, too completely immersed in horror, to perhaps have the same access to Western women's groups which wish to assist survivors as do women's groups which were formed and empowered during the communist regime and which have only begun dealing in some way with this issue in the aftermath of the media attention our groups worked for over one year to get and the international funding becoming available to apparently assist survivors. We are very concerned about the intentions of these groups. However, given that MADRE is going through the effort of sponsoring some women from Croatia and Yugoslavia, we believe that it should have researched genocidal rape more thoroughly here and in a manner more representative of and accountable to victims and to the political context in which these rapes are occurring.
The mass-rapes in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina are not simply "weapons of war" as your tour information states because what's happening in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia is not "simply" a war but a genocide in which Muslims and Croatians are being exterminated and therefore a context from which the rapes cannot (underlined) be extricated. We cannot emphasize enough how crucial it is to
understand this particularity if one it to remain accountable to the
victims and not to silence them even further.
We are concerned about the political implications of forums which silence over the specificity and therefore silence over the most victimized women. Simply saying that all women are raped in war as in peacetime by all men without at all alluding to what is particular about the rapes in the genocidal war against Croatia and Bosnia- Hercegovina obscured genocidal rape and the specifically Serbian aggressor committing them. We have painfully witnessed Serbian propaganda obscure every genocidal atrocity committed against Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, which has managed to receive some kind of international attention, by equalizing a genocidal system to fabricated or isolated events by the victims against the aggressors, which is not to say that the latter should not be condemned when they occur. The deliberate campaign of obfuscation and confusion has served the Serbian political and genocidal war aim of contributing to an international climate reluctant to take a stronger stand against the Serbian aggressor because it hides the aggressor by blaming it equally with the victim; this has prolonged our suffering and has contributed to the obliteration of our people. We are saddened that parts of the women's community may unknowingly be supporting this type of propaganda and political position.
The victims of genocidal rape desperately need the support of the women's and other communities, including the support of Serbian women. However, we have been disappointed by the fact that no Serbian feminist nor Serbian women's group has publicly or otherwise even acknowledged that a genocide is being perpetrated by Serbia against Muslims and Croats in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, much less taken a public stand against the genocidal rapes. In our experience in various forms with Serbian women, they, to, have instead obscured genocide - the rape component of genocide - with the line that all men rape in war and that therefore all women are victims despite the fact that this isn't "just" a war, that Serbian women do not live under genocidal conditions, and the fact that there is not war in Serbia. We to acknowledge that women globally are threatened by and are victims of rape, but we also believe that there is something particular and specific about what is going on in the Serbian occupied territories in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, which is only effecting non-Serbian women - i.e. those of the ethnicities that are targets of genocide by war.
We are concerned about women called upon to speak for us who have remained silent about genocide and mass-rape during the over one year that we have been trying so painstakingly to bring international visibility to this problem. Many of these remain silent and even actively deny that the rapes were happening were women in power during the communist regime to speak for women, some of whom even called themselves feminists (sic)! They had privileges in a totalitarian system at the brutal expense of others, which they were losing in the advent of democratic movements in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. One of these groups is the Independent Alliance of Women in Croatia of which one of your speakers was one of the founders. This speaker was also director of the Museum of the Communist Revolution which was essentially a
weapons warehouse in the middle of Zagreb and was already financed by the Community party. Another one of your speakers, Vesna Kesic, was a writer and occasional editor of the Yugoslav pornography magazines Start. We question how someone who writes for pornography can take rape seriously, especially given that some of the gang rapes in the death camps are being video taped as pornography. In our experience victims are simply distrustful of and do not wish to work with women who are so deeply implicated in the regime which is destroying them and with those who actively participated in the sexual abuse of women through pornography. Victims feel betrayed by these women who have remained silent for so long, who have engaged in denial, and who still continue to silence them by refusing to acknowledge the reality and particularity of genocidal rapes through the same white washing line of "all men rape."
The survivors of this genocide are also very sensitive to having the
venue of the genocidal rapes called the "former Yugoslavia." And
this is not a trivial matter.
Our organizations and other organizations are comprised of many women and refugee survivors who through their experiences and continuous dedication to this victims are deeply knowledgable about the issue of genocidal rape. We would appreciate it if you would also contact some of us in the future and we would be very happy to assist you in trying to end this nightmare we are living through here in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia and in ways which are more sensitive to our needs and which to not do further harm to those how have gone through the worst of it.
Kareta Feminist Group - Croatia
Bosnia-Hercegovina Refugee Women's Group "Zene BiH"
International Initiative of Women of Bosnia-Hercegovina "Biser"
Badem Ljubavi Women's Group - Croatia