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The ‘Sum of Such Actions’: Investigating Mass Rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina through a Case Study of Foca

  • Teresa Iacobelli
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)

Abstract

Rape has always accompanied war. In the twentieth century alone there have been numerous examples occurring in countries as diverse as China, Germany, India and Rwanda.1 Believing it to be a natural consequence of conflict, military historians have tended to ignore that rape is also a weapon of war. This belief has prevented historians from looking seriously at the act of rape, both its meanings and its consequences. As it became clear in the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s, rape is more than a by-product of war: the act itself provides a vital function in the destruction and disgrace of an enemy. However, what has not been as clear in the Balkans is the exact nature of the rapes which did occur there. Were the rapes perpetrated against Bosnian Muslims and Croats the result of an intentional and systemic policy ordered by Bosnian Serbian command, or were they random acts by soldiers, militias and a few sadistic leaders at the local level? This paper will attempt to answer this question through a case study of the Bosnian city of Foca, an area which first became synonymous with mass rape in 1992. By focusing on this singular example I will attempt both to contextualize mass rape and to answer some broader questions regarding its use in the former Yugoslavia. I will seek to determine why mass rape happened and how it came to be seen as a legitimate weapon of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Keywords

Muslim Woman Rape Victim Detention Centre Gang Rape Rwandan Genocide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    In 1937–1938, Japanese troops raped approximately 50,000 women in Nanking, China. Historians argue that the rapes do not appear to have been ordered and may have been motivated by the desire to show domination. In this regard the rapes were largely unsuccessful, as coupled with the murder of 300,000 Chinese, the rapes contributed to increased rebellion, rather than submission. J. S. Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (New York, 2001), pp. 366–368.Google Scholar
  2. In 1945, 2 million German women were raped by Red Army soldiers advancing into Berlin. Historians agree that revenge was the motivation for these rapes, and while not explicitly ordered, the rapes appear to have been officially sanctioned. L. Morrow, ‘Unspeakable’, Time (22 February 1993)Google Scholar
  3. and S. Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (New York, 1975), pp. 66–67. In 1947–1948, an estimated 75,000 women were raped during the India/Pakistan partition. Women were abducted and raped by men of differing religions. Rapes occurred by all sides, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. In response many women were martyred, either by killing themselves or being killed by men of their own religious background.Google Scholar
  4. U. Butalia, ‘A Question of Silence: Partition, Women and the State’, Gender and Catastrophe, ed. R. Lentin (New York, 1997), pp. 91–99. Finally, in 1994, an untold number of rapes occurred in the Rwandan genocide. Both Tutsi and sympathetic Hutu women were the victims of Hutu violence. This was a clear case of genocidal rape, perpetrated along tribal lines. It is estimated that 800,000 persons died over the course of 100 days in the Rwandan genocide. ‘Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence during the Rwandan Genocide and Its Aftermath’, Human Rights Watch (September 1996) http://hrw.org/reports/1996/Rwanda.htm (8 April 2004).Google Scholar
  5. 2.
    B. Harden, ‘In Bosnia, “It is Very Ugly, Very Sad What is Happening”’, The Washington Post (13 April 1992), A16.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    N. Cigar, Genocide in Bosnia: The Policy of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ (College Station, TX, 1995), p. 5. Census statistics also confirmed in The Washington Post.Google Scholar
  7. 5.
    P. Maass, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War (New York, 1996), p. 27.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    T. Butler, ‘The Ends of History: Balkan Culture and Catastrophe’, The Washington Post (30 August 1992), C3.Google Scholar
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    T. Judah, The Serbs: History, Myth and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, 2nd edn (New Haven, 2000), p. xi.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    Popularized during the Second World War, broadly speaking, Ustasha referred to Croatian nationalists, while Chetnik was a term applied to Serbian guerilla fighters. In the most recent conflict the terms were used largely as derogatory labels, although some Serbian paramilitary troops referred to themselves as Chetniks. Information derived from A. Callmard, Investigating Women’s Rights Violations in Armed Conflict (Canada, 2001).Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Criteria and definition of genocidal rape derived from, B. Allen, Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia (Minneapolis, 1996), p. ii.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Ibid., p. 4. Also see F. Hartmann’s ‘Bosnia’, in Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know, ed., R. Gutman and D. Rieff (New York, 1999) for a discussion of this topic and K. Doubt’s article ‘On the Latent Function of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia’ which discusses why the policy of ethnic cleansing was far more brutal in Bosnia than in other parts of the former Yugoslavia, found at http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/WitnessDoubtLatent.html.Google Scholar
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    N. Malcolm, Bosnia: A Short History (Washington Square: New York, 1994), p. 188. Judah, The Serbs, p. 121.Google Scholar
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    P. Maass, ‘Refugees Give Accounts of Random Serb Terror’, The Washington Post (5 August 1992), A27. Maass’s 1996 book, Love Thy Neighbor reveals a very different outlook on the war and its systemic atrocities.Google Scholar
  15. 61.
    J. Pomfret, ‘Atrocities Leave Thirst for Vengeance in the Balkans’, The Washington Post (18 December 1995), A17. Further testimony from perpetrators can be found in A. Stiglmayer’s ‘The Rapes in Bosnia-Herzegovina’, pp. 147–161.Google Scholar
  16. 63.
    E. Vulliamy, Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia’s War (New York, 1994), p. 201.Google Scholar
  17. 65.
    K. D. Askin, War Crimes against Women: Prosecution in International War Crimes Tribunals (The Hague, 1997), p. 265.Google Scholar
  18. 66.
    T. Salzman, ‘Rape Camps, Forced Impregnation, and Ethnic Cleansing: Religious, Cultural and Ethical Responses to Rape Victims in the Former Yugoslavia’, War’s Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution and Other Crimes against Women, ed. A. L. Barstow (Cleveland, 2000), pp. 72–73.Google Scholar
  19. 72.
    N. M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, 2001), pp. 169–170.Google Scholar

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© Teresa Iacobelli 2009

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  • Teresa Iacobelli

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