She was 17. Her name was Mirsada and she was rounded up with the other girls and women in her Bosnian village on March 3, 1992. As she was marched through her town she saw “pandemonium”: “corpses, people dead in their own yards. Some of the houses were burning…”.
Five hours later she reached what she described to the Los Angeles Times the following year as a “forest motel.” It was a Serbian rape camp. And it would be Mirsada’s home for the next four months.
Each night as many as two dozen men would come and do “all kinds of things to us,” she said. “It cannot be described, and I don’t want to remember.” She told the newspaper that “most” of the girls did not survive the torture and that she felt that death could not be as bad as what she’d suffered. Mirsada was only one of tens of thousands of women who were sexually violated during the Bosnian war by Serb militants.
Over the past few years, I’ve spoken to a number of Bosnian and Croatian activists who told me that women survivors are still living among their rapists—that they have spotted them on city buses or out in their town at night. There has been little peace for the women of this war, most of whom have seen little or no justice for the violence and destruction of their bodies, their communities, and their souls. No true justice that is, until now.
With the conviction of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic on March 24 at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, many of the women and men who suffered like Mirsada have finally seen justice at a level so many thought would never come. Found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, Karadzic has been held responsible among his many horrifying charges for using rape as a weapon of war. This comes just on the heels of another critical verdict on March 21, this one at the International Criminal Court.