Dealing With a Legacy of Rape and Torture in Bosnia and Herzegovina

20 October 2010
Author: UNFPA
Enisa returns to the scene of her torture .Photo: Antonin Kratochvil.

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina — Enisa grew up in Foca, a town in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, where she enjoyed carefree days as a child and young adult strolling by the Drina river. In the town, where people of different religions and ethnicities lived together in peace, she studied social work, learned to dance, and fell in love with a childhood friend, whom she married and had two daughters with. She and her husband never imagined that their pleasant world would be shattered by the violence that was beginning to envelop other parts of the country in the early 1990s.

Enisa was 34 when the war broke out in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. Neighbour turned against neighbour, and her world began to fall apart. Within a year, she lost her husband to a concentration camp. Women and girls, as young as twelve, were rounded up and imprisoned in houses in the hills where they were gang-raped and tortured. “Every day and every night women were taken. Some never returned,” she recalls. Under the cover of darkness, she and her children fled to Skopje where they lived as refugees until settling in Sarajevo.

She is still tormented by the cries of victims, and was deeply anguished as she revisited the rape camp 18 years later. The photographs here were taken by Antonin Kratochvil during that trip.

Providing psychosocial support to those who still suffer

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina killed at least 100,000 people between 1992 and 1995. It also resulted in an estimated 20,000 rape survivors among all ethnic groups, and an unknown number of children conceived by violence. Some 80 per cent of survivors continue to experience psychological and physical symptoms. “Their problems haven’t gone away because time has passed. They relive their traumas every day,” says Faris Hadrovic, head of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, Enisa is president of the Association of Concentration Camp Torture Survivors, an entity that provides psychosocial support to those who still suffer from the trauma of war. Of the more than 2,000 members of the association, a quarter were raped.

Many continue to deal with horrors similar to Enisa’s. Many of their stories are reflected in the State of World Population 2010 which focuses on how conflict and humanitarian emergencies have affected women and girls. It also examines how individuals and communities rebuild their lives in the aftermath of tragedy. An accompanying video entitled Bosnia: Rape a Legacy of War has been produced to accompany the report.

Bosnia and Herzegovina
Population : 3.3 mil
Fertility rate
Maternal Mortality Ratio
Contraceptives prevalence rate
Population aged 10-24

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