to Civilians in War
The Bosnian Experience
The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina broke out in the spring of 1992 and ended with the Dayton peace agreement, which was signed in November 1995. The war caused vast suffering to the whole population, and continues to do so for many. It is estimated to have caused 250,000 deaths and rendered 2 million people homeless. About 4 million people were refugees or internally displaced (Petevi, 1996). It has been reported that 90% of the wounded and dead in the war in Bosnia were civilians.
Geographical, historical, and cultural closeness made the war in Bosnia and the suffering feel nearer to many people in Western Europe, and also in the U.S., than did many other wars. The media focus was enormous, not least regarding the issue of war rape (see Agger, 2001, for a discussion), and the international community wanted to help.
In 1994, I was given the opportunity to work in Bosnia for Norwegian People’s Aid, a nongovernmental organization, coordinating a project providing psychosocial assistance to women traumatized by war. Later, I was involved in research projects focusing on children. My work was carried out in and near Tuzla, a multiethnic industrial town in the northeast with a pre-war population of about 100,000.