An 18-year-old Muslim woman in Bosnia recovers one day after aborting a pregnancy resulting from rape in September 1992. This rape occurred three years before the Srebrenica genocide. Rape was used systematically as an instrument of war in the Bosnian genocide. Photo by Nina Berman/NOOR. (note: lower quality photo posted for ‘fair use’ only, non-profit/educational purposes, full credits given to photographer) Please visit Nina Berman’s blog for more photos.
“I was sent to the special department for the pregnant women at Foca (see: Foca Genocide). I had one month to go. For one month nobody touched us, and then Chetnik soldiers visited us, and took all our gold and took two women from our room at 3 a.m. One of those women had given birth to a dead baby before that and the other was three months pregnant. They brought them back at 9 a.m. The next night they came back and took four women, the two from before and another two, who had newborn babies. It happened every night. They came and took those four women all the time. When I noticed someone was coming in the evening hours…I hid under a sink in a cupboard. Everything else was like normal. We got food for the children. A Serb doctor told us the soldiers wouldn’t touch us…and we didn’t tell them anything. I gave birth to my daughter Aida there. After some months, Munira and the other women were told they would be freed in a prisoner exchange. One evening some soldiers came with vehicles to take us. I thought we would be killed. Dr Cancar saved us. Don’t worry, my children while I’m here nothing will happen to you. And at that moment one of the soldiers took away the woman who had had the stillborn baby…” (personal testimony from “Safe Area Gorazde)
The women knew the rapes would begin when ‘Mars na Drinu’ was played over the loudspeaker of the main mosque. (‘Mars na Drinu,’ or ‘March on the Drina’, is reportedly a former Chetnik fighting song that was banned during the Tito years.) While ‘Mars na Drinu’ was playing, the women were ordered to strip and soldiers entered the homes taking the ones they wanted. The age of women taken ranged from 12 to 60. Frequently the soldiers would seek out mother and daughter combinations. Many of the women were severely beaten during the rapes.
One case had a Serb soldier telling a Bosnian woman he was raping, “You should have already left this town. We’ll make you have Serbian babies who will be Christians.”(Seventh Report on War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia: Part II , US submission of information to the United Nations Security Council)
There were numerous rape camps in the town of Foča. “Karaman’s house” was one of the most notable rape camps in Foca. While kept in this house, girls were repeatedly raped. Among the women held in “Karaman’s house” were minors as young as 12 years of age. In the findings of the Kunarac trial the appalling conditions of the detention centers being used for mass rape were described.
“Don’t take me, I’m only twelve!”
Among the most appalling and deplorable accounts of inhuman treatment and cruelty brought upon young Muslim females of Bosnia is that of the 12-year-old Almira Bektovic, a helpless war victim for whom virtually no compassion was shown whatsoever. Born in the town of Mostar in the year 1980, she lived in Miljevina in the municipality of Foca, the birth village of her father, Ramiz Bektovic, at the time of the Serb attack on these areas in the summer of 1992. Her father was taken away by the Serbs in june 1992 and was never seen again. Almira and her mother were instead detained in the Partizan Sports Hall with hundreds of other Bosniak women and girls under inhuman conditions and with lack of food or water.
In mid-August 1992, Almira Bektovic among other girls was brought to ‘Karaman’s house’ by Radovan Stankovic, this lasted for ten days until she was returned to her mother whom she told that “she had worked as a waitress, washed clothes, cleaned and cooked, and that there were many other girls there who did chores and things for the Serb soldiers”.
Afterwards in mid-september 1992 deportation busses were prepared for elderly Bosnian Muslim women and young children that were to take them to Bosnian-government-controlled areas for exchange; in a bus were Almira and her mother and two sisters, however suddenly the bus was stopped at the Drina bridge, and entered did men sent by Radovan Stankovic, who called out the name of the girl and snatched Almira Bektovic from her mother’s arms, who then screamed repeatedly “Give me back my child!” before losing consciousness, Almira was heard screaming and crying “Don’t take me, I’m only twelve!”.
One of the surviving witnesses from Karaman’s house reported that Almira was brought to the house holding her doll tightly to her chest, apparently not knowing what was awaiting her. Soon thereafter Nedjo Samardzic raped Almira Bektovic and reportedly bragged about “having taken her virginity” and “having fooled soldier Pero Elez (who was always looking for virgins) in who was to be the first to take her virginity”. Almira was found crying and vomiting after the assault (as part of rape trauma syndrome), by one the surviving girls from the house.
Over the next three months Almira Bektovic was forced into much the same pattern as all the other women and girls detained in the house; she had to do household chores, cook for the soldiers and sexually please these, at the age of merely 12.
Almira’s status however was even more vulnerable than that of the other girls who (in contrast to Almira) were ‘assigned’ to specific soldiers who got to rape them only, Almira thus not being assigned to any specific soldier was free to be raped by any soldier that was granted entrance to Karaman’s house. Radomir Kovac (Court of BiH) detained, between or about 31 October 1992 until December 1992 Almira Bektovic (and other girls). During their detention they were also beaten, threatened, psychologically oppressed, and kept in constant fear. During this period Almira was moved between various locations and apartments in Foca in order to ‘serve’ Serb soldiers and friends of Radomir Kovac. On about 25 December 1992, Radomir Kovac sold Almira Bektovic to a Montenegrin soldier (who were known among the detained women as “more aggressive”) for 200 DM (100 Euro), and from there on the tracks of her are lost (probably murdered shortly thereafter).