Women, War & Peace Series
Just after my son was born, I remember hearing about mass rapes going on in Bosnia. I cannot remember where I heard about this, but I remember that not only were women being raped on a mass scale, but that the rapists were so brazen, they actually aired these rapes on their local television.
What stunned me most was that no one was intervening. Yet, we, the great USA, had spent $36 billion dollars invading Kuwait to stop the Iraqi invasion and protect our national ‘interests’.
Sitting in a sun-filled room, nursing my newborn son, I was totally smitten—gaga in love with my baby. Those were my halcyon days with both of my children, nourishing them from my own body, drunk with love. Two tiny lives born of love between a man and a woman. Becoming aware that a half a world away, that very act, which for me is sacred, was being ‘committed’ against women for the intention of erasing their humanity was bad enough, but the lack of any action of the part of not only my government, but any government was chilling. What was it that Edmund Burke had said?
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
Did none of these men—the good ones or the evil ones—have mothers? Had the entire world gone mad and forgotten where we all come from? I asked myself as I marveled at the miracle of my son’s tiny fingers and toes.
When my children were born, I was overcome with the most contradictory feelings—a sudden awareness that I was capable of killing anyone who would harm my child while simultaneously, I felt a tenderness that I had never felt before. I was aware I had crossed over into motherhood, just as billions of women before me had and billions after me would. The atrocities just did not compute. How could the world turn a blind eye? But we did.
Last Tuesday was the premiere of the first of a 5-part series called Women, War & Peace, called: I Came to Testify which is about that time in Bosnia and the courageous 16 women who stood up before International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague tribunal and testified against 3 Serbian military men from their own villages. These testimonies led to the first time that rape qualified as a crime against humanity, second only to genocide, as the worst of the worst crimes that can be committed. They were guilty of genocide too, but maybe it was politically incorrect to push your luck in the international courts…
“The rapes were used for not only the immediate impact that they had on women, but the long-term destruction of the soul of the community.” ~ Refik Hodzic — Tribunal Spokesperson & journalist.
Rape not only destroys the humanity and dignity of a woman, it renders her man impotent. It taunts: I can do whatever I want to YOUR woman and you cannot stop me. It aims to destroy the most primary part of a human being—where we come from. It emasculates the men of the culture as it defiles their most precious treasure. It turns women into objects to be reviled. It is worse than shitting on an altar. Its intention is to obliterate whole human beings while still keeping them alive.
Killing them would grant them more dignity– but they weren’t even worth that. Killing them would have actually been compassionate.
No, this was evil at its most flagrant. These men did not just DO evil things, they were Evil.
Even with such depressing subject matter, I Came to Testify left me feeling surprisingly empowered by these women who went against their pride and instinct for survival to testify anyway. One of the women said,
“I wasn’t ashamed. I was actually proud and full of strength. I looked into his face and wondered why HE wasn’t ashamed.”
These women spoke at length with such genuine sanity that, however long over-due it is, they changed the way the world sees rape. But don’t get too excited because we’re still a world away from this being a unanimous consensus in the world. Still, it’s progress from the first Nuremberg trials which dismissed prosecuting Nazis for rape so as not to ‘have a bunch of crying woman in the courtroom’.
The healing is as private as the wounds are from such horrific crimes but one witnesses said it all when she said,
I came to look him in the face. I came to testify.
You can watch the entire first episode here:
Next Tuesday night, tune into your local PBS station for the second in the series of five and watch the remarkable documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, about the women of Liberia who’d had enough of war and put a stop to it by banding together, literally.
©2011 Stephanie Ericsson