Systematic Rape of Women in the Bosnian GenocideBy Nina Berman5 November 2010.I’ve been scanning old pictures from late 1992 and early 1993 of women and girls who were raped inthe Bosnian war which means they were personally, brutally, and sadistically attacked, violated,terrified and humiliated for no reason, simply because they were women and Muslim, sometimes justonce, in one case for 10 weeks. I wasn’t a very skilled photographer then. I didn’t think much aboutconstructing a picture. After the fact, I felt terrible that the pictures were photographic failures and Ihadn’t done these subjects justice. Now I just want to look at them. Holding the scratchedtransparencies and reading my notes, brings me back to those women and the process of finding them,which is maybe the most important part of this kind of work, the getting to the photograph. For thoseinterested, here are stories from some of the women I met. 18 year old Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) woman, Tuzla hospital, January 1, 1993.
Her story“It was June 30. I was in Belgrade a the bus station. I had been in Belgrade for close to twomonths, staying at my cousin’s house while my mother was in the hospital undergoing surgeryfor breast cancer. I was on my way back to Tuzla but I didn’t know that the roads had beenclosed because of the war. So I was just waiting at the station when two soldiers came up tome. First they asked me for a cigarette, then they grabbed me, showed me their guns, told meto shut up or they would kill me and they forced me into a car. They told me to keep my headdown and not to look out the windows. I was sure I was going to die.We drove like this for two hours until we reached a village. I had no idea where I was. Theytook me into some basement room and gave me half a piece of bread and a little meat, but Ididn’t want it. I didn’t want to eat anything. After about an hour, they took me from this place,put me back in the car and drove to some other village. There were a lot of soldiers outside butI didn’t know who they were or where I was. Again, they took me into a kind of basementroom that had a bed and a small table. I went two days without food or water or anything. Onthe third day, a soldier came in and asked me if I was hungry and he gave me a sandwich andsome water. I got the feeling he wanted to help me. I stayed in this place four days. Nobodydid anything to me. After four days they took me into another building and I heard a soldiersay they were going to bring me to Pale. (The administrative headquarters of the Bosnian Serbforces)
Soon after that, they brought me outside to a car that had Sarajevo registration on it. They putme in the car and blindfolded me. We drove for a while until we got to some barracks whereother prisoners were. We went past the barracks and into this room which was fairly big, itlooked like it had once been an office. They told me to lie down by the door and not to sayanything. There were four other girls about my age in the room as well, but we didn’t talk.Then four soldiers came in and told me to take my clothes off. I didn’t want to and the soldiersaid he would go out and by the time he got back, I should be undressed. The four othersoldiers who had been with these girls left and I went out in the hallway to go to the bathroom.No one was around so I just went and on my way back I met this soldier in the hall. He hit meand yelled at me because I hadn’t asked permission to use the bathroom. So I went back intothe room and the four girls asked me why I hadn’t taken my clothes off because if I didn’t, thesoldiers would kill me. That was the only time I spoke with these girls. I still have no idea whothey were or where they were from. The soldier never came back in the room that day and thegirls left. The next thing that happened was another four girls came into the room with foursoldiers and they told me to leave. They put me in another room and some soldiers came in.The first ordered me to take off my clothes. I said I didn’t want to but he just took them offhimself. Three other soldiers were in the room and one of them held my legs while another cutme with a razor. The one who took my clothes off burned my mouth with cigarettes and thenraped me while the other three watched. I was sure they all intended to take their turn, butafter the second one raped me and the third one was preparing, the first two soldiers said tohim not to bother because I was no good, I was just a peasant. And so I was spared.I was then taken to a large room with mostly old people in it. I saw one man with a piece offlesh cut out of his arm and he was telling a soldier “Please don’t put salt on it because ithurts.” I stayed there a little while and then they brought me back to the other room. I heardthem say they were thinking about putting me in yet another room and it I was to go there Iwould have been the 176th girl in that room. But nothing happened and I pretty much spent10 days alone except for one day when a girl from Bratunac [near Srebrenica] came in, but sheleft the same night, and then the last day when four girls came in. After they left, I was rapedagain. I tried to defend myself but I couldn’t. They took my clothes, they hit me, they werepulling my hair. A few days later, six soldiers came in and all of them raped me. They cursedme, insulted me, said there were too many Muslim people and said a lot of Muslims weregoing to give birth to Serbian children.Four more days passed and no one touched me. They fed me a sandwich each day and that’sall. I asked if I could bathe and they said yes but only with cold water. After five days anothersoldier came in and raped me. And that evening, two very drunk and dirty soldiers raped mevery badly. They had guns and knives and were very rough. Three days passed, another twosoldiers raped me, this time in front of four others. I got sick and was vomiting and they said Iwas worthless and they should just kill me. It was the 16th time I was raped. After that, no onetouched me again.A few days later, I heard there was going to be a prisoner exchange but I didn’t know I wouldbe part of it until I was put on a truck with about 30 to 40 other people – all men – and wewere taken to Visoko and they exchanged us for flour. I met four other girls in the refugeeplace in Visoko. They had been in another prison. One of them was pregnant. They said thesoldiers burned them with hot metal bars and they had to stay naked all the time.
Some people from Visoko took these girls and other refugees and they asked me if I wanted togo too, but I didn’t. Two weeks later I was transported to Zivinice. I arrived there September20. And when October and November passed and I didn’t get my period, my sister, who is theonly other person I have told all this to, took me to a Tuzla hospital and they told me I waspregnant and could still get an abortion if I wanted. If I would not have been able to get anabortion, I would have killed myself. I told this to my doctor. I wasn’t going to give birth tothis baby. I never want my parents to know about this. I also have a boyfriend, but I can’t tellhim. I’m so afraid of what people would think of me and say about me. I know I can’t keep thisinside me forever.”Brcko survivors living in a former school turned refugee center, Tuzla, January 3, 1993.Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) women: Mirela, 23 and Senada, 17 and Sabina,16, all seized from theirvillage near Brcko.Mirela’s story“It was Tuesday, June 16. All the men from 16 years old and up except for the very old were told to gointo a gymnasium for a meeting. We knew that if they stayed in that gymnasium overnight they wouldbe taken by bus to Luka, a concentration camp in Brcko. So all the women from the village wentrunning to the gymnasium to try to get inside. There were 40 Serbs guarding the gym. Our fathers andbrothers were inside. I never thought much about Croatian, Bosniak, Serb. And I had these two friends,and one of them was one of those who rounded up my brother. I said to him, “I will find you one day if
I stay alive and you too, after this war, and I will kill you. I swear to God I will kill you. ” And he saidnot to worry that everything was going to be OK. They are just going to be questioned to see who isguilty and who is innocent. But we know what was going to happen and we were screaming and cryingand begging them to let everyone go.They led them into buses. We tried to stop them. We layed down in front of the buses but we couldn’tdo anything. We went back to our homes and after about an hour, the Chetniks [Serbian paramilitaryterrorists] came into the village and went from house to house and told us to pack our bags and go thegymnasium. They put us on 11 buses. It was just women and children and old people. We drove on theroad towards Orasje to what looked like a Serb military base. We stayed there five nights. We gotnothing to eat or drink and we slept on stone. Then they put us back into the buses and we headed backsouth along the road. We thought we were going back to Brcko. They gave us some water on the busbut it had something in it because we all got sick with headaches and stomach aches. And they keptgiving us more water. One woman gave birth to a baby on the bus.We got to Zabrdje on June 22. They brought us into what used to be a furniture shop. There were about14 of us. They took our things, our jewelry, anything we had. We felt like we were sheep with wolvessurrounding us. They kept us in the shop and took our mothers outside. We heard shelling and then sawthem leading our mothers away on foot. That night, one by one Chetniks came in to taht show and said,‘You with the red jumper, come. You with the black hair, over here.’ And they took us one by one intoempty houses in the village and raped us.”
Senadas story “He took me to one very old house and told me to clean the house and he would come back in 15minutes. When he came back he asked me why I hadn’t cleaned the bed. I didn’t know who the manwas. He wasn’t one of the ones from Brcko. He was big with dark hair and older. He told me to takemy clothes off and I started crying. And he said, ‘it’s better just one man. I can call to all units and itcould be 15 or 20 men. He said his name was Misha. He started telling me his life story. He said he hadto rape Muslim women because Muslims were raping Serb women. And he said he joined up to fight totake revenge. He raped me the whole night. I had been a virgin. He took me back to the shop in themorning and all the girls were there except one. A soldier came in and said he had married her. The girlcame from Brcko. She was our friend. A very close friend. We have never seen her again.”Muhamed Klipic, 21 from Prijedor, Bosnia with his mother AdilaFollowing the Serb attack on Prijedor, [Bosniak man] Muhamed Klipic was taken to the Keratermconcentration camp where he witnessed Serb forces rape a young Bosnian Muslim girl, and was forced,he said, along with other prisoners, to rape the same girll.
“I was in a camp 3 months and 10 days in Keraterm. They beat me on my face and my hands. I wasstanding in the corner. They had guns pointed at me. They brought in a 12-year-old boy, a Serbianchild. He beat me with an iron bar. Two or three days they beat me. They also brought in a girl, aMuslim girl. They forced me to rape her. First they raped her and then we had to rape her. ”Klipic was let out of the camp after his father and mother signed over their house and their family’sland to the Serb occupiers. They then fled after being threatened with death by their neighbor. Tadic.Adila said her son has lost his mind and has regressed back to a small child.Photographed at a refugee center in Posusje, Bosnia December 26, 1992.
A survivor from Kotor VarosBosniak woman Zijada Caus, 27, gives testimony on December 29, 1992 at the Bosnian War CrimesCommission office in Zenica, accusing Serb commander Zdravko Krsic, of raping when Serbs tookcontrol of her town of Kotor Varos on July 15, 1992. She and her family were forced to flee to Zenica.