WR1003 War and Reconstuction in the Balkans
Gender, Nationalism and War

9. Women Civilians

The war in former Yugoslavia has produced over three million refugees and displaced persons, the majority of whom are women (European Community Report 1992).
Women 84% of adult refugees – it is not just high tech warfare that damages civilians more than combatants – so does this form of civil war.
Mary Kaldor (1999) New and Old Wars: Organised Violence in a Global Era, Stanford University Press says that at beginning of 20th century, ratio of military to civilian casualties was 8 to 1 – in last 10 years it has been 1 to 8.
UNICEF 1989 says that 90% of war casualties since WW2 have been civilians - civilian casualties cannot be seen as unintended by product of conflict. (Seifert, 1996)

In any war based on ethnic nationalism, civilians are automatically targets because everyone outside your own national group is the enemy. One side is trying to destroy the power of the other but power is not just military power - the enemy can be attacked economically, socially, culturally and psychologically. And if nationalist ideology stresses common culture, land, religion, masculine pride and female virtue, it is not surprising that enemies attack civilian populations, particularly religious leaders and women. Policies of 'ethnic cleansing' also make civilians the main target.

One of primary goals in war is destruction of the culture of the other side - enemy admits defeat when perception changes - women are those who hold families and communities together - their physical and emotional destruction destroys social and cultural stability - psychological effects of mass rapes can lead to devaluation & dissolution of whole group.
When Serbs invaded a town, they destroyed objects of cultural heritage, captured and killed intellectuals and established rape camps for women - women of intelligentsia and those of higher status first to be selected.
(Source: Seifert, R. (1996) 'The Second Front: The Logic of Sexual Violence in Wars', Women's Studies International Forum 19: 1-2, pp. 35-43).

'Men trained by Arkan and Seselj were reportedly behind a May 7 massacre in the Bosnian town of Bratunac. An eyewitness, Fodahija Hasanovic, 34, has made a sworn statement to the Bosnian war crimes commission that some 2,000 Muslims were rounded up and the women were separated from the men. Men who had worked for the town council, police or schools were singled out and killed. According to Hasanovic, a local Muslim leader in Bratunac was forced to make the three-finger sign of the Serb Orthodox church. When he refused, "they beat him again and stabbed him in the throat. The Muslim clergyman fainted. They stabbed him two more times, after which he died." This is a recurring element of massacre stories: forcing a victim to perform rites of the enemy religion'.
Lousie Branson (1992) 'Atrocities: Muslims, Croats and Serbs in catalogue of shame', The Times 12 July.

According to Hughes, Mladjenovic, & Mrsevic (1995) ‘Feminist resistance in Serbia’, European Journal of Women’s Studies, 2: 4, pp 509-532, aid from humanitarian sources for Bosnian Serb refugees was scarce because of the unpopularity of the Serbian regime – some women have resorted to prostitution – their Bosnian accents cause them problems in Serbia.
Living standards have dropped dramatically

'Loss of home and loss of land is synonymous with the loss of identity throughout the Balkans. Once the land is lost, the identity and self-esteem are lost. The psychological relationship to the land is a fundamental trait in the whole conscious and subconscious behavior of the Balkan peasant. Land is considered a sacred thing'.
Olujic, M. (1995) 'Women, Rape, and War: The Continued Trauma of Refugees and Displaced Persons in Croatia', Anthropology of East Europe Review, 13: 1 http://condor.depaul.edu/~rrotenbe/aeer/aeer13_1/Olujic.html

Mary Kay Gilliland, Sonja Spoljar-Vrzina and Vlasta Rudan researched Bosnian and Croatian refugees in 1993. They point out that refugees are often viewed as 'burdens on the local economy, as potential competitors for jobs, as socially and culturally disruptive or undesirable, and in other ways as threats to a nation's or community's well-being'.
Refugees have lost not only their homes, possessions and members of their families, but have also lost family roles and work roles. The authors found that women refugees tried to maintain some aspects of normal life to a greater extent than men did - their motivation perhaps linked to their traditional roles of looking after family members. More women than men had found paid work.
'....for the most part, women more often than men were matter-of-fact about their situation. "We mustn't give up," said one. That was the attitude of many other women we met.
Responses from men were less varied. Young men, particularly Muslims and those without any kind of job, were angry and aggressive. Young Muslim men were very reluctant to speak with us at all and what we were doing made them suspicious (understandable in wartime). Older men, Muslim and Croat, were meek and resigned and, together with those in poor health, seemed to depend more on their wives than their wives did on them, which is a reversal of the expected pattern (that the expectations were otherwise were voiced by the women who felt their men were dependent). Older couples mostly came from villages, where men worked on the farm and women took care of the house and the needs of the family. As refugees, men could not fulfill their traditional role, and had lost their authority and their standing as those who did the "more important" work. They responded in one of two ways. Either they gave up their authority to their wives and looked to them more as a child would to a mother for emotional nurturance and for decision-making (such as there was), or, in a few cases, they became excessively authoritarian, which made life still more difficult for the women. A few couples seemed to depend on each other, to offer mutual support, and to have become closer in the sharing of hardship'.
Gilliland, M, Spoljar-Vrzina, S. & Rudan, V. (1995) ‘Reclaiming Lives: Variable Effects of War on Gender and Ethnic Identities in the Narratives of Bosnian and Croatian Refugees’, Anthropology of East Europe Review, 13: 1 http://condor.depaul.edu/~rrotenbe/aeer/aeer13_1/Gilliland.html

1. Introduction / 2. Context / 3. Chronology / 4. Women as Symbols / 5. Women as Reproducers / 6. Women as Keepers of the Home / 7. Limited Autonomy / 8. Women in Armed Groups / 9. Women Civilians / 10. Women's Bodies as Territory / 11. Militarization of Society / 12. Reading

URL: http://pers-www.wlv.ac.uk/~le1810/wr1003.htm
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