Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Toll of Bosnian Rape and Death Camps Increases Steadily

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Toll of Bosnian Rape and Death Camps Increases Steadily

Article excerpt

Toll of Bosnian Rape and Death Camps Increases Steadily

In the first two years of war and "ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia, approximately eight percent of Muslim Bosnian women were raped by Serbs, according to a statistical study done by BISER, the International Initiative of Women from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nor, despite their fading from the headlines, have either the "rape camps" or the death camps in Serbian-held Bosnia been shut down.

A recent Washington Post article entitled "U.N. Forces Accused of Using Serb-Run Brothel" quoted women survivors of a rape camp named "Hotel Sonja" who reported that "most of the women held there were killed after they had been raped." Such charges are not unusual. Clearly many of the women in Bosnia- Herzegovina who are raped by Serbs are later murdered, or die due to the injuries they have sustained.

The same article reported charges of involvement by U.N. troops in the systematic rape of Bosnian women. "Two. . .women told Newsday they had been raped at the brothel, one by a U.N. officer, one by a Bosnian Serb soldier," correspondent Roy Gutman wrote. "Every one of a dozen Muslim witnesses to the purported U.N. visits to Sonja's stated his or her strong belief that members of the U.N. Protection Force had had joined in the sexual abuse of women detainees."

Members of women's groups based in Croatia and in the United States have long been aware of this reality. They have spoken directly to survivors who were either raped by U.N. soldiers while in captivity or who witnessed U.N. soldiers' participation. Even Gutman's report of U.N. troop participation in the sexual abuse committed at Sonja's mistakenly called it a "brothel," implying that the women are there voluntarily or are being paid. Prostitution does, of course, exist in war zones, but this is not prostitution. It can only be called torture and murder.

Unfortunately the dearth of recent coverage of rape camps and death camps in Serbian-occupied areas has lulled the public into believing such camps no longer exist. This couldn't be further from the truth. The Kareta Feminist Group in the Croatian capital of Zagreb reports that many of the rape camps that earlier had been disbanded after they were discovered by journalists have reopened, and that atrocities continue against women and girls. Inmates of some rape camps that were closed were forced at gunpoint to walk to other areas where the camps reopened. They were the fortunate ones. Sometimes, Kareta said, the women held in a camp were killed when the camp was closed.

According to BISER, approximately 20 percent of Bosnia's Muslim population has been killed, and 50 percent of all Bosnia's Muslims have been expelled from their homes. Because the war continues, these figures continue to rise.

Women and children account for about 85 percent of the refugee population coming out of Bosnia. The majority of the Bosnian Muslim refugees have streamed into neighboring Croatia where, unfortunately, their troubles do not end.

Croatia is a country of 4.76 million struggling to deal with a refugee population that is estimated at close to half a million people. Many of these people are internal refugees, and many, out of fear of deportation, remain undocumented.

Amnesty International estimates conservatively that about 30,000 mainly Muslim Bosnian refugees in Croatia are not registered there. High unemployment, runaway inflation, and a rising crime rate all plague war-weary Croatia, whose people increasingly blame their economic and social ills on the unwelcome newcomers. …

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