Sunday, 13 March 2011

Bosnia: Rape a Legacy of War

“The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina may have ended fifteen years ago, but for so many of the nation's women, the legacy of wartime rape lives on.”

The use of rape in the war in Bosnia was so systematic and pervasive that the Geneva Convention was modified to include rape.  When rape is widespread and systematic, it is now recognised under the Geneva Convention to be a crime against humanity or war crime.  When it is committed alongside the intent to destroy, in part or whole, a targeted group, rape is now considered to be an element of the crime of genocide.  (See: Rape as a War Crime)

At least 20,000 women were raped in the war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.  They were often raped repeatedly or by gangs and rape camps were set up in towns around Bosnia.  Mass rapes also took place during the Rwandan genocide, in Kosovo in 1996 to 1999, in Darfur, and currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Their problems haven’t gone away because time has passed. They relive their traumas every day,” says Faris Hadrovic, head of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The video above follows the journey of Enisa, a survivor of the campaign of rape during the Bosnian war.  It is powerful in that it puts a human face to the suffering that was endured by thousands of women in the region.  Enisa is president of the Association of Concentration Camp Torture Survivors which is a Bosnia organisation which seeks to provide support to the surviving inmates of concentration camps.  The provide physical and psychosocial support to survivors.  Of the more than 2,000 members of the association, a quarter were raped. 

Two things struck me about this video:

  • Enisa was about the same age I am now when the war broke out.  We have similar interests (she worked as a social worker) and similar pursuits.  We are the same, we are both women, we are both just living our lives.
  • The men that committed these rapes are, for the most part, walking free and living their lives.  The organisers have been prosecuted in some cases but the perpetrators have not significantly been pursued or identified.

(If you struggle to follow the video in parts because of the simultaneous interpretation, you can read the script or view the shorter news piece entitled Bosnia: Rape a Legacy of War).



  1. I wrote my master's thesis on this very topic. It was extremely upsetting to write but I thought it was important to do so.

  2. @ Tenderhooligan: Oh wow, I didn't know that. I would love to read your thesis one day.

  3. I have watched this video on YouTube just the other day, interested in rape camps in Bosnia. Horrifying story but yet I admire this woman and her courage to come forward. I was born in Bosnia, but was lucky enough to leave at the beginning of the war. I am quite outraged by how little is done for the victims of these horrible crimes, and that these men that were involved in these activities are still walking free. I hope that more women will come forward with their story so that justice can finally be served. I truly hope that soon in Bosnia more help will be offered to those who need it, dealing with the trauma of their past. I also wish that I could help these women and children that are results of war rape.

  4. Belma, there must be something that can be done to help, even if only donating to the organisations that assist these women? But yes, entire neighbourhoods were cleansed and the perpetrators walk free in those neighbourhoods.


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