WOMEN IN BLACK – Belgrade
ACTIVITY REPORT: APRIL 15th – JULY 15th, 2005
During this period, Women in Black, together with other nongovernmental organizations which have displayed unambiguous and clear attitudes towards the responsibility for war and war crimes of the Serbian regime that was in power until 2000, as well as towards the absence of political will for breaking with the criminal politics of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, were subjected to harsh attacks. In the case of Women in Black, those attacks were of both institutional character (questioning, police investigations, financial controls, etc., all aiming to discredit and criminalize Women in Black) and “non-institutional” character (constant telephone harassments, anonymous and open threats via telephone and e-mail) in order to move the campaign of public lynching from words to deeds: on July 10th, during the action “Let us not forget – genocide in Srebrenica” a group of neo-Nazis, fascists, and chauvinists threw a teargas bomb in the direction of manifestation participants. Luckily, no one was hurt, but this cannot be considered as an isolated “incident” but as a logical consequence and continuation of the politics of institutional toleration of clero-nationalism and clero-fascism; in short – the political, social and cultural climate that produced war and now is being displayed through the justification, relativization, and minimalization of responsibility for war and war crimes. And the consequences of these politics for the future of Serbia, especially the youth, are great.
In the period from April 15th to July 15th, a huge number of street actions were realized (protests, performances, etc.), as well as a campaign to exert pressure on institutions in the direction of taking measures for overcoming the consequences of the criminal past. Namely, in the abovementioned period passed the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica that was committed by the army of the Republic of Srpska and with the support of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic. This anniversary was the reason for the majority of public actions (relating to the genocide in Srebrenica) as well in relation to other tragic events from the recent past (1991 – 1999).
Public – Street Actions
DEALING WITH THE PAST: Actions against denial of the criminal past – acts of compassion and solidarity with the victims of genocide in Srebrenica – actions of nonviolent resistance to crimes committed in our name – visiting the places of crimes committed in our name – demands for responsibility for the wars and war crimes…
In the recent period, eight organizations for peace and human rights from Belgrade: Center for Cultural Decontamination, Belgrade Circle, Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Humanitarian Law Center, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Women in Black, and the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia continued with cooperative activities against denial of the criminal past, the establishment of rule of law, and democratic pressure on state institutions through campaigns, public announcements, and demands that representatives of the government begin to assume criminal and other forms of responsibility.
WOMEN’S PEACE NETWORK – Strengthening and Widening
From the numerous educational activities of very heterogeneous content and form (workshops, tribunals, seminars, training programs, etc.) that have been realized during this period, we have selected the following:
Dealing with the past – a feminist approach: In March and April, 2005 the first and second phases of this project were realized (educational trainings/instruction for members of the activist core of Women in Black from Serbia and Montenegro) while the third phase began for application of the acquired knowledge. Within this framework the following regional seminars were held:
1. About dealing with the past – introduction to the theme,
2. From the role of victim to responsible citizen,
3. Responsibility and I,
4. How justice is met – about transitional justice – about models of dealing with the past,
5. Dealing with the past as women’s solidarity – resistance to the rise of fascism – continuation of women’s nonviolent resistance.
In addition, video materials on this theme were shown.
Women, Peace, Democracy – Within the framework of this educational project begun in January 2005, the following seminars/trainings of regional and international character were realized, as well as public tribunals:
- Panel discussion: Women’s activism in the face of retrograde tendencies;
- Field report: results of the abortion poll conducted in around 20 towns in Serbia;
- Lecture: Between the concept of state security and human security;
- Lecture: On the concept of human security;
- Lecture: UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (“Women, Peace, Security”);
- Workshop: On demographic politics and national security;
- Lecture: Security is the absence of violence against women – security is the investment in health and education;
- Lecture: Engendering the nation – political demography and gender politics.
In addition to these activities, during this international conference/training program, documentary video material about women’s actions for reproductive rights and abortion, peace, and disarmament was shown. The conference was attended by 47 activists.
● July 1, 2, 3rd – Women, Peace, and Security – regional seminar/training: held on Bor’s Lake (Eastern Serbia) with the participation of 39 activists from ten towns in Eastern and Southeastern Serbia. During this seminar, the following workshops and lectures were realized:
● June 20th – Civil society and women’s human rights: a tribune held in Vlasotince (Southern Serbia). Two Women in Black activists from Belgrade spoke in the town library. The tribune was organized by the SOS Hotline for Women and Children Victims of Violence and City Hall of Vlasotince.
MUTUAL SUPPORT – Women’s Solidarity at work
Either in organization of Women in Black or by friendly groups, educational activities (lectures, workshops) were held with the aim of widening the spaces of women’s autonomy, the culture of feminism and pacifism, and strengthening autonomous women’s groups:
International Alternative Politics
Of the numerous international activities realized during this period (participation in international conferences within the country as well as abroad, meetings, contacts, discussions…) we have selected the following:
● During this period, Women in Black activists also actively participated in international conferences on the issue of dealing with the past that were organized in Belgrade:
- June 3rd – conference “The presence of the past in Serbia on the way towards Europe?” in organization of Heinrich Boll Stiftung.
- June 11th – the conference “Srebrenica – beyond reasonable doubt” in organization of the Humanitarian Law Center and the Office of the Hague Tribunal in Belgrade.
- June 26 – 29th – “Transitional Justice in the former Yugoslavia” in organization of the Center for Cultural Decontamination and Belgrade Circle.
● June 29th – Nomination campaign “1000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize” – Stasa Zajovic, Women in Black activist from Belgrade was among those nominated.
● July 5 – July 19th – “Caravan for Palestine – Caravan for human rights – 2005” began traveling from Strasbourg. Around 100 cars passed through Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, and on July 10th a number of participants joined the Women in Black protest vigil on occasion of the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica. One Women in Black activist joined the caravan, the only participant from Serbia and Montenegro. The caravan was scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem on July 19th.
● July 10th – Meeting and discussion of Women in Black activists from Serbia and representatives of the International Women in Black Network from Italy, Germany, and USA, in the Women in Black office in Belgrade.
In addition to the abovementioned activities, Women in Black had numerous other contacts and meetings during the visit to Belgrade by a large number of activists and researchers from various European countries.
During this period a large number of leaflets and brochures on UN Resolution 1325, as well as about the tenth anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica were printed. Also, the publishing process has been continued of the book “Rising up in Response” by Jane Barry, USA, which will be published in Serbian in August 2005.
Belgrade, July 20th 2005
Report prepared by: Stasa Zajovic