The Roses of Bosnian

The Bosnian War, which lasted from 1992 to 1995, was a brutal conflict that resulted that tens of thousands of women were rap....


11/24/20234 min read

The Roses of Bosnian

The Bosnian War, which lasted from 1992 to 1995, was a brutal conflict that resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people and the displacement of more than 2 million. It was also marked by widespread sexual violence against women and girls, which was used as a tool of ethnic cleansing by the Serbian military and paramilitary forces.

During the war, women and girls from the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) community were targeted for sexual violence by Serbian forces. The perpetrators used rape as a means of terrorizing the Bosniak community, destroying its social fabric, and driving people from their homes.

The use of rape as a weapon of war was a deliberate strategy intended to cause physical, psychological, and social harm to the victims and their communities.

It is estimated that tens of thousands of women and girls were raped during the Bosnian War. Many of these rapes were carried out in front of family members or in public places, adding to the trauma and humiliation experienced by the victims.

The perpetrators included members of the Serbian military, paramilitary groups, and even civilians. Women and girls from all walks of life were targeted, including pregnant women, the elderly, and young girls.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) declared that "systematic rape" and "sexual enslavement" in time of war was a crime against humanity, second only to the war crime of genocide.

Although the ICTY did not treat the mass rapes as genocide, many have concluded from the organized, and systematic nature of the mass rapes of the Bosnian Muslim population, that these rapes were a part of a larger campaign of genocide, and that the VRS were carrying out a policy of genocidal rape against the Bosnian Muslim ethnic group

Rape camps

Estimates of the number of women and girls raped range from 12,000 to 50,000, the vast majority of whom were Bosniaks raped by Bosnian Serbs. The ICTY estimates between 20,000 and 50,000 rapes, and that 80% of those happened over a prolonged period of imprisonment. UNHCR experts have claimed 12,000 rapes. The European Union estimates a total of 20,000, while the Bosnian Interior Ministry claims 50,000.

Throughout the conflict, women of all ethnic groups were affected, although not on the scale that the Bosniak population suffered.

Serb forces set up "rape camps" where women were imprisoned, tortured and raped over a period of years. Women held at the camps were only released when pregnant. Gang rape and public rapes in front of villagers and neighbors were not uncommon.

Testimony from a Kalinovik camp survivor (where roughly 100 women had been detained and subjected to "multiple perpetrator rape") said that the rapists continually told their victims, "You are going to have our children. You are going to have our little Chetniks", and that the reason for their being raped was to "plant the seed of Serbs in Bosnia".

Women were forced to go full term with their pregnancies and give birth. A Serbian national song Marš na Drinu was played over the loudspeaker signalling to the women that rapes and assaults were imminent.

The age of the victims ranged from 12 to 60 and often women were targeted from the same family group. Many women were also physically assaulted during the rapes, sometimes severely.

Detention camps were set up across the Serb-controlled town of Foča. While kept at one of the town's most notable rape locations, "Karaman's house", Bosniak females, including minors as young as 12, were repeatedly raped.

Women and girls selected by Kunarac, or by his men, were taken to the soldiers' base and raped. The local police were accused of involvement, and the head of the police in Foča, Dragan Gagović, was identified as being one of the men who would visit these camps to select women for rape. At least 11 persons were indicted in connection with rapes at the camps in Foča.

At other times, girls were removed from detention centers and kept in various locations for prolonged periods of time or trafficked and sold under conditions of slavery. Bosniak women were raped by the Serbs as part of a methodical and concentrated campaign of ethnic cleansing.

There, the women and girls (some as young as 14) were repeatedly raped. Serb soldiers regularly took Muslim girls from various detention centers and kept them as sex slaves.

The use of sexual violence during the Bosnian War had devastating and long-lasting consequences for the victims and their families. Many survivors suffered physical injuries, including sexually transmitted infections, injuries to their reproductive organs, and other health problems.

They also faced psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety, which often continued long after the war ended.

The social and cultural consequences of sexual violence were also significant. Survivors of rape often faced stigma and discrimination from their communities, which made it difficult for them to return to their homes and families.

The breakdown of social norms and the destruction of community institutions, such as schools and hospitals, further undermined the resilience of affected communities. The use of rape as a weapon of war also resulted in the displacement of entire communities, which led to long-term social and economic consequences.

Let's review

The legacy of sexual violence during the Bosnian War continues to affect the lives of survivors and their communities. Although some progress has been made in addressing the issue, much more needs to be done to provide support and justice for survivors and to prevent sexual violence in future conflicts. This includes efforts to promote gender equality, combat impunity for sexual violence, and provide comprehensive services to survivors of sexual violence. It also requires the active participation and leadership of women and girls in decision-making processes and peacebuilding efforts, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are respected.