What is more wonderful than taking walks down memory lane? Next week, I’ll be returning to the country that transformed my life and helped me see the world, and my place in it, in a very different way. That memory lane is Bosnia.
In the post-conflict development stages of Bosnia in 1996, I was in the middle of many conflicting and complimentary actors. The UN, NATO, international institutions, diplomats, non government organization, mine detection organizations, military trainers, international police, refugee organizations…you name it, everyone was there. Caught among those forces were people, Bosnian people. Post war forces labeled them Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. These people — our drivers, translators, receptionists, security guards, procurement assistants, political assistants – these people for me are the people I will never forget. They were young, dynamic, resilient. They represent my best memories of Bosnia.
What was so special about Bosnia? The women. They are strong, very strong. In the bitter winter of 1996, I could go to a hair salon and get my hair done! My hair could be washed and styled with cold water, usually poured out of a storage bucket. But they had the supplies, and they were in business. Bosnian women did not look like emaciated war victims. Bosnian women were glamorous. My fashionista, girlie side was always impressed by how “put together” Bosnian women in Sarajevo were, considering four solid years of being pounded by rockets and snipers. My feminist side was thoroughly impressed with the intellect and thoughtfulness that young Bosnian women displayed. They offered me a good education, something different than what I was getting inside the walls of embassies, institutions or military bases.
In the Spring of 1996, hundreds of women flooded Sarajevo in protest. I was shocked, and impressed. They came from Srebrenica, they were furious that the issue of disappeared men was not on the international community’s priority list. Those women of Srebrenica form the backbone of a movement for truth, reconciliation and justice. Fifteen years have passed, and they are still working – protesting, lobbying, strategizing – so that what happened in their city is not forgotten, in their search for accountability.
I will journey down memory lane next week, beginning in Sarajevo, then Srebrenica and Tuzla. I’ll be visiting those “crazy” ladies of Srebrenica, those old quilting grandmas, as some people will have us believe. I will reveal another side of their work – the resistance side, the strategist side. The women of Srebrenica have taken many risks over the years, and they have pressured very large powers. I’ll walk with them and capture their stories (in video, audio, and digital images). Follow me through this journey and learn more about the real women of Srebrenica, the strong, resilient women who won’t give up their fight.