Response to the MADRE Courage Tour on Rape

25 March 1993
Transcribed by k.mihalec

Please Note: 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
Zagorska 44
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel/fax: 38 41 414 834

Refugee Women's Group
"Zene BiH"
Dubovacka 39
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel: 38 41 334 929
fax: 38 41 334 498

International Initiative
of Women of Bosnia-Hercegovina
Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina
(now in exile in Croatia)
tel/fax: 38 41 225 519

Bedem Ljubavi Women's Group
Vlaska 70A
41000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel: 38 41 451 056
fax: 38 41 451 861

As representatives of Bosnian and Croatian women's groups and some of us survivors ourselves who have been working with victims of genocidal rape since November 1991 and therefore have the most experience with this particular genocidal war crime, we write to express our concerns about the national tour being sponsored by MADRE about "rape...used as a weapon of war " in the former Yugoslavia. Come of these are the following:

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

Page 2

understand this particularity if one it to remain accountable to the victims and not to silence them even further.

Rape is a political weapon of torture and terrorism by men against women and all rapes must be condemned; mass-rapes under orders on the Serbian-occupied territories of Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia are also a part of a Serbian policy of genocide against non-Serbs. That means that non-Serbian women - most prominently Muslims and Croats - are not only tortured by rape as are all women, but are being raped as a part of a Serbian policy of "ethnic cleansing" on the basis of their sex and ethnicity both; most of these rapes end in murder (underlined). And this is not (underline) happening to all women.
The other dimension of this specifically genocidal rape, which appears historically unique, is the forcible impregnation of non-Serbian women. The purpose is to produce what Serbs regard as "chetnik" babies to populate the "Greater Serbian" state. These two types of genocidal rape occur as public spectacles on the occupied territories aimed at inducing massive emigration and fleeing and are also systematically organized in over 20 Serb-run rape/death camps and randomly in 100 concentration camps. Serbian soldiers are commanded (underline) by their superiors to commit these genocidal rapes. And this is not(underline) happening to all women.
Please remember that the Muslim and Croatian women whose rapes have now received international attention are the "lucky" ones, the ones who survived, the ones who weren't massacred. What about the Muslim and Croatian women who compromise a significant number of the over 250,000 (official figures: 200,000 in Bosnia, 50,000 in Croatia) exterminated in genocide in these two countries, whom we will never hear from?
Rape as genocide is, therefore, not the universal (underline) rape you tour information states but is very ethnically (underline) specific (underline) to Muslim and Croatian women in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia, who suffer from the double and simultaneous oppression of sex and ethnicity. Only when genocidal particularity of rape is grasped (underline) and respected (underline) can we begin connecting it with the rape of all women in war and what is euphemistically called peacetime.

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.

Page 3

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.

Because of this lack of acknowledgment of genocidal rapes in the silencing over of our most painful experiences and because Muslim and Croatian (and Albanian) women are continuously violated in public forms by Serbian women's position on this (as by that of the very unrepresenative women you have selected to speak for Croatian women), we feel we cannot engage in such forms until Serbian women's position becomes accountable to the genocide (which includes rape) Serbia is perpetrating against us. Moreover, given the types of genocidal atrocities that non-Serbian women have gone through, at this point in time, many survivors are afraid of Serbs, who's position on the issue does nothing attentuate these fears, which will take time to overcome.
However, to place Muslim and Croatian women in forums which force on them the women of the group committing the genocide, who do not even acknowledge that genocide is going on and who are trying to convince Muslim and Croatian women that it isn't happening, is to commit further violence against these women. This might be something like forcing Jewish women to "debate" with German women while the Holocaust were still going on - and German women who don't even want to acknowledge that a genocide is happening - and then simply calling the whole thing a war. By making this analogy however, we in no way wish to deny the historical uniqueness of the Holocaust.

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

Page 4

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.

First and most obviously, there is no place on the map of Europe which has this name. Second, genocidal rapes are taking place in two internationally recognized countries called Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. The citizens of these two countries overwhelmingly voted for independence from Yugoslavia because they were oppressed in a Serbian dominated Yugoslavia which is now practicing a policy of genocide against non-Serbs in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia. The victims of the genocide - of which rape is one form - are further violated when they are misnamed by and associated with the country perpetuating the genocide of the Muslim and Croatian women in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia.

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