Running Head: RAPE VICTIMS IN KOSOVO DURING WAR Rape Victims in Kosovo during War Manjola Cuka ENGL 135 Advanced Composition Catherine Davis April 20, 2009 DeVry University, We all are aware of the suffering that war brings in people’s lives. War means losing everything you hold dear. War means losing your childhood home, war means losing your husband, wife, child, brother, and sister. During the war in Kosovo there were a number of brutal actions performed towards the Kosovo population physically and emotionally.
The Serbs knew exactly what these people valued the most in their lives. That is honor. Among other inhuman and degrading acts executed towards the Kosovo people during the war, the Serbs used rape as a tool to destroy not only the women as individuals but also their families to the core. According to McKinsey (1993), there were an estimated twenty thousand females raped during the war in Kosovo. That is a large number considering that population of Kosovo is a little over two million people. The Kosovo population had been trying to gain their independence for almost a decade.
They were only asking for their rights: the freedom of speech, the right to send the children to schools where they can learn their own language, the freedom of media, and the freedom of living in their own country without fear. This is their country and they were only asking for what was theirs. According to the U. S State Department report (1999), the Serbs started an “ethnic cleansing” campaign that was meant to remove all the non Serb population out of the country. The most gruesome acts towards these people started to get worse after NATO troops bombed the Serb military points on March 24, 1999.
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Serbs decided to punish the people by forcing them out of their homes, burning their houses, torturing them, raping them, and killing them. Rape was the main weapon used against the Kosovo women to terrorize and weaken the entire population. Shenon (1999), reports on these gruesome activities that were taking place in Kosovo: “The department's report said that refugee accounts suggested that Serbian forces had executed more than 4,000 Kosovars, and that surveillance photographs taken either by satellites or airplanes had identified seven possible sites of mass graves.
The report said that rapes of Albanian women were being reported in increasing numbers, with systematic mass rapes apparently carried out in the cities of Djakovica and Pec. ” To understand the consequences that rape has in the lives of the Kosovo people, we have to understand how they are raised and the beliefs that are engraved in them throughout the years. The people of Kosovo value family and country more than their own lives. The young girls are raised to believe that their role in the world is to get married, have children, and take care of the chores around the house.
There is a distinguished difference the way these people lived their lives. Men were the bread winners and women were there to raise the children and take care of the house. If there was male company in the house, the females would only serve them and go to their rooms until the company left. One of Dr. Alakija (2000) reports explains how a team of males was greeted only by Kosovo males, and when a team of females went to investigate they were greeted by females. It is not appropriate for strange males to discuss with the Kosovo females even to get their testimony.
Another important part of these people’s lives is marriage. Dating outside marriage is prohibited in their culture and the girl should not lose their virginity until she gets married. The girls that had pre marital relationships are called unfit for any man to marry. So after knowing these facts we can only imagine, what rape means to these people. The women lose their purity after being touched by another man even though it is not their fault. No man would come close to them for the rest of their lives. They would live the rest of their days hating themselves and wishing they were dead.
The Kosovo women were raped and tortured systematically in front of their loved ones ruining them physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. There are statements of pregnant women who were raped and beaten by either gunpoint or by being tortured. The physical pain these women endured can never be compared with the emotional and mental damage they went through. There is not a bigger humiliation than being raped in front of your father, your mother, your brother, your uncle, and your children. How can someone be the same after going through something like that?
These women were raped in front of their children, no matter what age. It is heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time how these individuals would put children and mothers in these inhuman situations. One of the many rape victims explained how helpless she was when being held down by multiple individuals while another was raping her. This is how she describes her torment: “I could not resist, I could not fight against them,'' the witness, a woman identified as N. S. , testified. ''I could not resist because the others were holding me while my children were watching” (Sullivan, 2000).
Another horrific fact during the war was that the Serbs raped these women with the intention to make them pregnant. There are two reasons the Serbs impregnated the Kosovo women: one was to dishonor them and their families for life and second one to increase the Serb population with their children. According to BBC News (2000), only the month of January of 2000, there were one hundred rape babies born. That is a large number for this small community. How were these women able to live every day knowing that inside them was the child of the enemy.
The enemy that killed their man, the enemy that kicked them out of their own homes, the enemy that raped them in front of their loved ones. As Both (2001), noted “The term ‘genocidal rape’ is both emotionally and politically loaded, but is does seem to accurately reflect the realities felt by some if not all raped women in the conflict. As we saw above, some raped Muslim women reported that their attackers claimed that they were intending to impregnate them to create Serbian babies, and that some women were held captive for a period of weeks to ensure that they did not abort the child they had conceived in rape” (p. 4). Honor is the most valuable virtue in the Kosovo society. Serbs knew they would humiliate and degrade not only the Kosovo women but their families and their loved ones. After being raped these women would never speak of the ordeal they went through and would hide it from everyone if they could. These women would rather be dead then share their torment with someone else especially if it was someone they did not know. They would rather keep the pain to themselves if that was an option. It was not enough they suffered rom the torture that was used against them, but they had to live in fear of losing everything they held dear even though this was not their fault. The raped Kosovo women would not share these ordeals with their own families for the fear of bringing shame to their entire family. The husband would leave the wife if they found out she was raped. Here is one example of a husband that suspects his young wife was raped: “Mr. Thaqi says his wife, who did not want her name published, denies the rape because ''she doesn't dare tell that kind of story. ' If she admitted it to him, he said, ''I would ask for a divorce -- even if I had 20 children. '' As his wife listened, silent and shamefaced, in a corner of their empty home, looted of all furniture and possessions by the Serbs, Mr. Thaqi added: ''I don't hate her, but the story is before my eyes. I feel very cold toward her. '' Kissing her, he said, ''is like kissing a dead body'' (Bumiller, 1999). It is not hard enough that they were raped and humiliated but they have to live with the shame for the rest of their lives. Most of these women lock themselves in their parents’ homes until they die either by choice or they are forced.
It is heartbreaking how the community and their families expect them to commit suicide for something that was not their fault. Serbs knew that by raping the women they would destroy their families. What other method could be better then destroy a country to its core? These women live the rest of their lives excluded from the outside world wishing they were dead. The husbands live the rest of their lives wishing their wives were dead. Their parents live their lives wishing their daughter was dead. In the Kosovo culture rape carries a very strong social taboo and shame keeps victims silent.
The women and men of Kosovo are not as afraid of death as they are of rape. “Rape is a deeply sensitive subject in ethnic Albanian Kosovo, a Muslim and largely traditional society, where a sexual assault can permanently stigmatize a woman, shaming her family and ruining her marriage or prospects of marriage. Gathering first-hand accounts of rape has proved very difficult for war crimes investigators, and the scale of sexual assaults here may never be fully known” (Finn, 1999). They cannot tolerate the thought of their women being touched by another man.
This degrading act not only humiliates the women but it demoralizes the men that are fighting in the mountains. That was one of the biggest war strategies the Serbs used to defeat the Kosovo people. And this was one more reason the women keep the rape secret. They want their husbands, their fathers, and their brothers to fight for their country instead of carrying the family shame in their shoulders. The world came together to help the rape victims with everything they needed. The biggest issue the humanitarian organizations were facing was the non cooperation from the victims and their families.
Under no circumstances they would admit they were raped unless there were witnesses to testify to that. Even then it would be very difficult to treat these patients. Knowing the consequences of admitting they were raped, what mother would risk losing her children to get medical treatment? How can they put their own well being before their children? They considered themselves dead anyway. They would rather live in pain for the rest of their lives with their children around them, then medically treated and have lost their families.
They would shut down and most of the time they would deny they were raped. There are a large number of cases that are not officially reported as we have seen in different reports: “Rape: There are numerous accounts indicating that the organized and individual rape of Kosovar Albanian women by Serbian forces was widespread. For example, Serbian forces systematically raped women in Djakovica and Pec, and in some cases rounded up women and took them to hotels where they were raped by troops under encouragement of their commanders.
Rape is most likely an underreported atrocity because of the stigma attached to the victims in traditional Kosovar Albanian society” (U. S State Department Report, 1999) It is unthinkable in some cultures to comprehend how these families treat the rape victims, particularly these women that were forced into these acts and had no other choice. Instead of embracing them and try to help them get through these tough times, they throw them in the streets and also blame them for the shame they bring to the family. There is no mercy for the raped victims.
What can be worse than having your own parents, the ones that gave you life, the ones that raised and nurtured you, wish you were dead? These rape victims find their way out by shutting down or by going in the mountains and join the man in the fight for their freedom. They have no life next to their own family. They choose to leave and fight to get away from the staring eyes of their neighbors and everyone else that gets in contact with them. The biggest reason is to take their humiliation with them and spare their family the shame and embarrassment.
Here are the words of a father of a rape victim: "I have given her to the KLA so she can do to the Serbs what they have done to us," Haxhi Lokaj said of his daughter, who has been sent to fight with the rebels of the Kosovo Liberation Army. “She will probably be killed, but that would be for the best," the 40-year-old father said with more resignation than sorrow. "She would have no future anyway after what they did to her" he continued (Williams, 1999). There are different approaches the enemy uses to destroy a population to the core in the time of war.
Serbs used the most degrading act to ruin the Kosovo families for life. That was rape. Death does not come close to the pain and the outcome that rape brings in these peoples’ lives. If the women and men died protecting their country, fighting for their rights, or protecting themselves from being abused, they would be praised. In contrary if the women were raped but survived, for no fault of their own, they were the humiliation of their family and the whole community. Compassion for the rape victims does not exist.
It will take a long time and a few generations for these people to start living a full life. It will not be easy for these memories to be erased from their minds. References Alakija, P (2000). The ravages of war. Retrieved April 21, 2009 from http://www. cmaj. ca/cgi/content/full/163/9/1148 BBC News. (2000). Women scarred by Kosovo atrocities. Retrieved April 17, 2009 from http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/716701. stmBooth, K (2001). The Kosovo tragedy: the human rights dimensions. (1st Ed. ) Oxford: Routledge, member of the Taylor & Francis Group.
Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://books. google. com/books? id=777jPodhCYYC&dq=The+Kosovo+tragedy:+the+human+rights+dimensions. &printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=8HLuSaSYMYuqtgeEgMHMDw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4Bumiller, E. (1999). Crisis in the Balkans: Crimes; Deny Rape or Be Hated: Kosovo Victims' Choice. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from http://www. nytimes. com/1999/06/22/world/crisis-in-the-balkans-crimes-deny-rape-or-be-hated-kosovo-victims-choice. html? n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/Subjec
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